Thursday, November 10, 2005

LORD OF WAR – “Evil prevails" but enough about ELIZABETHTOWN….

LORD OF WAR is a decent black comedy about a second-generation Ukrainian immigrant called Yuri Orlov who escapes his low-life existence in New York by becoming a gun runner. There are plenty of cracking one-liners delivered in flawless dead-pan by Nicholas Cage and just enough exposure to the surrealities of African civil wars to leave you with a bad taste in your mouth.

The movie was written and directed by Andrew Niccol, who previously brought us the outstanding sci-fi movie, “Gattica” and the haunting script of the “Truman Show”. In Gattica he coaxed Jude Law into giving his only decent acting performance to date, and he does it again with LORD OF WAR. Nicholas Cage is terrifyingly convincing as a nice guy who just wants to make a buck off the free market. I reckon this is his best performance since he won an Oscar for "Leaving Las Vegas". Niccol also has a great visual eye. The opening scene where we see the life of a bullet from manufacture to detonation, all from the bullet’s point of view, is astounding. It’s probably one of the most impressive credit sequences since “Swordfish”. Niccol also shoots a fantastic scene using time-lapse photography, where we see poor Africans asset—strip a 747.

But LORD OF WAR stops a little short of being great for the reason that this really is a script that revolves around one man, and only devotes time to his relationship with his friends and family in a cursory way. This holds back the film in a number of ways. First, the supporting roles are all under-written and waste the acting talents of Ian Holm (the Hobbit), Jared Leto (“Alexander the Great”’s boyfriend) and Ethan Hawke (the “Cop with a conscience” from “Training Day”). Second, for the film to work we have to be interested in what Yuri is up to. But this is a guy who succeeds in his occupation because he manages to shut out all the nasty aspects of his work. This sort of alienation is fascinating to watch for a while but not for 122 minutes.

So while there is a lot to recommend LORD OF WAR, and it is worth checking out, it is far from a perfect movie. If you really want to see what it is like to trade illegal goods, check out the biopic of a drug dealer named George Jung, played by Johnny Depp, in the fantastic movie “Blow”.

LORD OF WAR opened in the US in September and in the UK in October. It opens in France on the 21st December.

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