Lord of War
The anti-hero, a character
who may do things that are repugnant and wrong but still happen to be
charming and likable, keeps rising up in Hollywood. In movies from
Bonnie and Clyde to The Godfather to Blow, there is a
natural fascination to good men who choose bad professions.
In Lord of War,
Nicolas Cage plays one of these men whose moral compass doesn't quite go all
the way around and who can rationalize off anything for money. He
plays Yuri Orlov, an Ukrainian immigrant in Brooklyn who is living a dull
life in his family's restaurant when he is a bystander at an attempted mob
hit. Instead of being horrified by the violence, the entrepreneur in
him is awakened when he realizes that there are many bullets and guns being
used and someone must supply them.
It is a horrible business,
but it is one that Yuri is amazingly facile at. He starts into it with
his brother Vitaly (Jared Leto), however his sibling doesn't have the
stomach for the business and when a client insists on paying with drugs,
Vitaly spirals into addiction.
Therefore, Yuri goes forward
alone. He is seen as young, brash and unprincipled by Simeon Weisz
(Ian Holm) the main trafficker on the black market. Yuri tries to work
his way into Weisz' operation, however the older dealer rebuffs the brash
upstart because he sees that Yuri is just in it for the money; he would
happily sell to anyone, no matter how evil or wrong. Weisz is
old-fashioned in his belief that it is their responsibility to use their
moral compass as well as the power of money. When communism falls in
Russia, Yuri takes advantage of his contacts to become a major player.
Yuri sees nothing wrong with
what he does, though. He will argue long and hard that he is not
responsible for any deaths. He is not firing the arms. He is
just providing a service.
Beyond being a hard
businessman, Yuri is surprisingly romantic. He has been in love since
childhood with Ava Fontaine, a former classmate who has gone on to be an
internationally-known supermodel. Yuri nearly bankrupts himself to woo
her; he hires her for a fake photo shoot, rents out an entire beach resort
and an airplane all to make himself look good in her eyes. Once he has
won her over, though, he has to keep making his "business deals" bigger and
bigger just to keep her in the style she is used to.
He ends up dealing with a
father-son pair of African dictators. Here Yuri strains to keep his
head above water, Andre Batiste, Sr. is a bloodthirsty madman and his son
is, if anything, even more out of control. Yuri barely escapes death
in his first deal with the dictator when he exclaims with surprise when the
dictator calmly shoots a military aide who annoys him. Yuri is able to
use his wits, his personality and his natural salesman skills to stay alive
(he disarms the angry dictator by making him laugh; he says that he has to
buy the gun now, it is used.) This leads to an ever escalating group
of deals where Yuri is getting crazed African warriors all the latest in
armaments. The war scenes are horrifying and yet weirdly, absurdly
As he is dragged deeper and
deeper into this world, his grasp on his own world starts to slip. He
is being dogged by an FBI agent (Ethan Hawke) who is determined to take him
down. His relationship with Ava is suffering. Yuri's obsessive
attention to details starts to fray a bit. He takes chances he never
Lord of War is a
twisted take on the American success story. The fact that Yuri could
be any CEO just makes it even scarier.
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Posted: September 20, 2005.