Nicolas Cage in: Lord of War

Lord of War

Released in 2005 ▪ Review posted November 17, 2013

“Hey, Satan, did you hear the news? A war just broke out up on Earth.”

Saddam Hussein (South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut)

Were you aware that war is bad?

Did you know that capitalism creates markets for things?

Has it ever occurred to you that people who are motivated only by profit often suspend their morals to exploit the mechanisms of war? If not, maybe Lord of War is for you!

This movie sucks.

Essentially, it’s just Blow. Except you don’t believe any of the relationships, and you don’t care about any of the characters. Lord of War assumes you’re too distracted by the horrors of war profiteering to notice.

Nic Cage’s one-note performance, as fictional international gun seller Yuri Orlov, is awful. I suppose his (or the director’s) intent was to communicate that Orlov is so devoid of emotion, he could allow himself to build an international crime ring, lie to his wife about it, and feel no remorse for the consequences of his actions. However, remaining emotionless is the worst possible character choice an actor can ever make. There’s only one character that’s ever gotten away with having a one-note performance and it’s this guy.

Michel Shurtleff’s “12 Guideposts” to good acting proposes that good acting is founded on the relationships in a narrative. In Lord of War, the relationships are barely there. The writing, the acting, and the directing all force them into the back seat, and instead you are beaten about the head and face with moralizing.

How on Earth is the viewer supposed to care (spoiler alert) that his wife betrays and leaves him at the end, when up until then he had wooed her so deceitfully, and you almost never actually see them together?

In Blow, our hearts are broken along with Johnny Depp’s George Jung when (more spoilers) his first wife, complicit in his underhanded deeds, dies of cancer while waiting for him to be released from prison. Blow’s character arc is satisfying, and the little that it does lack is made up for by Depp’s stellar performance.

In Lord of War, Cage’s character never changes. He never realizes anything. You don’t care what happens to him. He never even embraces the evil inside him. He just shrugs it off and lives with himself. It’s boring, and amounts to a waste of two hours.

The only person putting any heart into this movie is Ethan Hawke, who I normally love, but who is terrible here also.

First of all, Hawke looks old. Secondly, his ambitious preachiness is a little over the top. Thirdly, he plays an Interpol agent, who is out and about in the world, fighting crime. Again, the terrible horrors of war are meant to make you forget to look up what Interpol actually is when you get home. Basically, it’s an organization that networks police departments around the world so they can share tips and tricks. They don’t command an actual police force. There’s no squadron of dedicated Ethan Hawkes out there, tracking gunrunners.

Hawke seems to fill the space left by Cage. He plays the cop with the heart of legally obtained gold. No amount of money can bribe him. No amount of obfuscation will daunt him. He will get his man. So…the character sucks. He’s distractingly explosive on screen when contrasted against an eerily mopey Cage.

Going back into the annals of film history, the only time the unbendable cop trope is used effectively is Russell Crowe in American Gangster, who only gets away with it because Denzel Washington, his ex-wife, and every other character tell him how much his heart of gold makes him suck as a cop, as a husband, as a father, etc.

All in all, Lord of War is a bad movie with a crap director who’s also the very same crap screenplay writer. It’s a bore, and it’s for naive people with tender sensibilities who can be manipulated for the price of a ticket.

How was the movie?
How was Nic Cage’s acting?
Did his performance make the movie worse?
Yes, but also because of many other reasons