There’s always a multitude of reasons why a big Hollywood movie fails to draw a crowd and is labeled a bust. Some of the more popular ones include horrible marketing, wrong choices regarding release dates with too much competition or an uninterested, apathetic viewing public. My personal favorite and the reason I think Lord of War has tanked in box office return—the film is terrible.
No one involved in any movie before it is released is thinking the film is going to be a disaster. They are dreaming of the moolah that will be flowing into their bank accounts. Embarrassing acting or clichéd and poorly written scripts never enter into it until it’s too late and negative reviews pour in while theatre seats remain empty.
Lord of War has a combination of bad elements—acting, story and writing—that make it one of the least enjoyable bits of cinema I watch the entire year. Worse films may come my way, but on just enjoyment factor, Lord of War is just wretched from its smug beginning to its smug ending.
Nic Cage stars as Yuri Orlov, a dissatisfied Ukranian-American living in Brooklyn. One day he’s hit with an epiphany after watching local Russian gangsters carry out a hit in a restaurant. Days later he’s somehow scored an Uzi and is selling it in some low-rent hotel.
Soon after he’s running guns in other countries and we never see how he engineered these connections. Who knows, maybe in Brooklyn in the 1980s you could just spread the word that you are ready to run some guns and poof, machine guns and grenade dealers just show up at your stoop. Lord of War was in such a hurry to get ahead in the story it couldn’t fabricate a plausible back-story and this makes Yuri’s rise to riches/power completely ridiculous.
Lord of War attempts to be a revealing satire so we see messages hammered into us like “guns are bad” and “governments are corrupt” and “guns used by governments kill people” (oh wait, I used that one already). I’m not opposed to films with this message on an international, or local, level but when they are delivered in such a forceful, humorless, soulless way all I feel is revulsion.
What makes this even worse is it uses this “smugger than thou” narration by Cage that attempts to explain the motivations of Orlov and how to run guns to foreign dictators. The narration is often played for laughs with lame quips about Bin Laden and weaponry but it falls flat the entire movie. At times there was more narration than dialogue in the film and it just did not work.
Nicolas Cage is awful in Lord of War. He delivers a performance that is so distracted and bored I am curious why he even agreed to do the film (cash money baby!). His speech is spoken with teeth clinched tightly so often I wonder if he had some kind of dental issue going on while this was filmed. I won’t even bring up his toupee as that might be hitting below the belt. You’d think with a budget of millions that a better toupee wrangler could be found wouldn’t you?
I don’t know what has happened to writer/director Andrew Niccol. The first two films he wrote or directed were The Truman Show and Gattaca—two great, interesting movies. Since then it’s Simone and Lord of War—two horrible movies. Who knows what his next one will be like but I’m losing interest in a hurry after watching Lord of War.
Lord of War is a heavy-handed, soulless, vile satire that fails on nearly every level—writing, acting and story—that is an unpleasant thing to have to sit through.