What distinguishes Nicolas Cage from other more mainstream actors is that his choices of independent films, providing him the opportunity to take on a wide variety of roles that broaden his range, while periodically taking on the occasional Jerry Bruckheimer production to maintain his box office gravitas and make some money to allow him to work the indie films. It’s a circuitous route that helps to benefit the viewer. Sometimes those lower-level films are hits, while others miss.
In Lo…d of War, Cage plays Yuri Orlov, a Russian immigrant who moves to New York with his family, looking to obtain the proverbial “American Dream”. Through an event in a restaurant (where a Russian mob boss was the target of an attempted hit), he decides his calling is to sell arms, and does what he can to be at the top of everyone’s list. Enlisting the help of his brother Vitaly (Jared Leto, Panic Room), he works his way through arms conventions, trying to network with third world governments, and even proposing a deal with a fellow arms dealer named Simeon Wiesz (Ian Holm, Lord of the Rings) to join up. Ultimately, Yuri goes into business for himself and marries the girlfriend of his dreams (Bridget Moynahan, I, Robot), all the while trying to keep as remote a touch on the lives he effects with his job.
Things improve for Yuri when a well-placed relative in the Russian Army, gains access to A LOT of arms, small and big, and Yuri spots a chance to be successful. From there, he elevates himself to a position of respectability within the arms trade, so much so that he deals with various African warlords, including a somewhat unstable one in Andre Baptiste (Eamonn Walker, Oz. During Yuri’s rise to the top, he encounters an idealistic but somewhat naïve Federal agent in Jack Valentine (Ethan Hawke, Training Day), who would love nothing more than to take Yuri down.
Written and directed by Andrew Niccol (Gattaca), the film is narrated by Cage’s character, strangely reminiscent of Scorsese’s Goodfellas. The key difference here is that Cage’s character really isn’t that sympathetic, and doesn’t make you yearn for the glamorous life of international arms trade. Whether or not that’s the point or not isn’t the issue, but a lot of times, what Cage experiences through the movie is done with such little emotion that it’s hard to tell what’s going to make him overly happy or sad. Now if there’s a great message or moral to take away from Lord of War, I can’t find out what it may be, but after hearing what some people had said about this film, I was left feeling unimpressed.
The good news is that the 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation the film sports is pretty good, with the film grain readily apparent for most of the film. The bad news is that the picture is cropped from the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The short story is that while on my widescreen HDTV appears full frame, there still should be some letterboxing. Why Lion’s Gate released this DVD in open matte or not I don’t know, but they haven’t been too forthcoming as to the reasons why.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is very capable. There’s a lot of music that accompanies the film and it all sounds very clear, and the environmental sounds are pretty encompassing, and the surrounds are used when they need to be. The two-disc version of the film sports a DTS track
Lion’s Gate has released this in separate one and two disc treatments. For those who are interested to see the breakdown of those extras, please hop over to Sean’s review. Otherwise, the only extras here are a couple of nondescript trailers.
It’s not really that bad of a movie, but it certainly wasn’t as good as many people have claimed it is. The fact that this isn’t presented in its OAR borders on criminal as well. Fans of the film will snap up the two disc, as well they should, the extras appear to be pretty good, but I’d recommend more as a rental before taking a larger plunge.
Special Features List