"Lord of War" Throwback Review
Yuri Orlov is a bad man. He traffics guns to those that want them, to be used on those that least deserve them. He rubs shoulders with the higher-ups, cutting deals and circumventing the laws just to keep the war machine spinning. He lies to his parents, wife, and child. He lies to himself, except he believes those lies. He has to because the truth is scarier than any war.
But the biggest problem with Yuri Orlov is that he's played by Nicolas Cage.
On paper, he's someone you hate from the beginning. Your seething before he's even on screen. But when that charming smile and piercing blue eyes hit you, all that pent-up hatred flies away. You know you should still be hating this guy, but you can't prevent your mind from being tricked into liking him.
Writer/director Andrew Niccol uses Nicolas Cage just like a weapon. He has his mission: to warn the people of the western world, the ones that couldn't be bothered by what happens in someplace that doesn't offer McDonald's or speak English, about the invisible hand that makes the world go round. Interpol Agent Jack Valentine sums it up when he says, "Those nuclear weapons sit in their silos. Your AK-47, that’s the real weapon of mass destruction."
Cage is the gun, firing on all cylinders as he makes you realize you've been duped. The villains of the world don't wear black capes and broadcast their masterplans. They do everything in broad daylight, challenging you to do something, anything to stop them. As we all know, money makes the world go round. And when the bullets are firing, the money is flowing.
Of course, Niccol can't fully commit to that dour message. He still has to have his $50 million project turn a healthy profit. So he sprinkles in some phony familial tension between Yuri and his brother Vitaly, played expectedly by a more than committed Jared Leto.
And there must be the usual rags to riches to rags story, complete with the tried-and-true beats of the main character getting what's coming to him.
Even with his conventionalism on the micro-level, Niccol's macro messages about gun-running and true villainy are poignant. It makes you think, especially since the message seems tame by today's standards. I honestly don't want to see the remake with the updated facts, because I doubt they'd make me feel any better.