Lord of War was overwrought, preachy, predictable and boring. Other than that it was fantastic! No seriously, this is not a good film folks. It’s the story of Nicolas Cage as an international arms dealer but it never connects on any level. This is a shame because it comes from a really nice film pedigree.
It’s by Andrew Niccol, the screenwriter who has The Truman Show, The Terminal and Gattaca to his credit. I really liked all three of these films and I think they show a tremendous amount of range. Perhaps the problem was that Niccol directed Lord of War? He may be a more gifted writer than director as only Gattaca was directed by him of the aforementioned. Oh yeah, he also directed Simone. Yikes!
Before I bust out my hatchet and go to work I should mention briefly why this film is getting a D and not an F. I enjoyed the opening credits which follows the path of a bullet from creation to violent use. I enjoyed the ending, which wasn’t as utterly predictable as everything else in the film. Lastly I liked the sex scenes thrown in every ten minutes. I’m no perv, but when you’re watching drivel you’ll take a momentary escape any way you can get it.
Hatchet Time! Lord of War is all about just how darn bad guns are, and by inference how bad gunrunners are. The problem is the film has no nuance, no subtlety. When confronting social issues I prefer at least a nod to complexity such as Blow or Traffic. Usually black markets exist for a reason, and that reason isn’t because the sellers are always bad.
I’d also call Jared Leto poor in this film. Leto and Nic Cage are brothers like me and Nic Cage are, and just so you know, Cage and I aren’t brothers. Even if you can swallow the fact the Mr. Cage is a Ukrainian gunrunner you’ll most certainly choke on Leto being his little assistant gunrunner brother. They don’t look alike, act alike, seem related or emote like any brothers I’ve even seen. The film also asks for too much, too soon. Early on Cage asks Leto for a favor, a “brother in arms” moment, but you’ll find yourself laughing at it. We’ve seen these guys five minutes and now they are going to live and die for each other? C’mon, meet us halfway, show them as kids getting in trouble or something. Throw us an emotional bone.
I forgot one of the other bright spots! Eamonn Walker as Andre Baptiste Sr. He plays Baptiste as an over the top crazed maniacal killer but judging from history that sounds about right. So he’s dead on and provides a few moments of levity in an otherwise flat piece. When he’s on screen killing folks for no good reason the film feels crisp. It’s dead on arrival otherwise.
Oh, one final note to all filmmakers everywhere, please stop using Jeff Buckley’s version of the Leonard Cohen song “Hallelujah”. This song packs an emotional wallop but I’ve now seen it on The O.C., The West Wing and Shrek (actually it might be Rufus Wainwright’s version in a couple of those). It works in all three but it feels misplaced in Lord of War. You can’t throw a song like Hallelujah out there unless you’ve earned it! In closing Lord of War is a mess. Save your ten bucks.