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Nicholas Cage
Monica Bellucci
Ethan Hawke
Jared Leto
Bridget Moynahan
Donald Sutherland.
Andrew Niccol.
Andrew Niccol.
Running Time
121 minutes

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Lord Of War
Nicolas Cage forges a career in the arms industry

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Yuri Orlov (Cage) tells of his career in the international arms trade, from small beginnings in America to bigger, more dangerous deals in Africa. Pursued by an Interpol agent (Hawke), Yuri prospers in his bloody business at great cost to his relationships with his brother (Leto) and wife (Moynihan).

Lord Of War
In earlier films as a writer-director, Gattaca and S1m0ne, plus his script for The Truman Show, Andrew Niccol looks to New Scientist articles and current cultural trends for the seeds of ‘if this goes on …’ awful warnings. Here, he is more interested in why the world is hell now, and how it has become that way, than in how much worse things will be in the future — and he seizes upon a big subject unduly neglected by the movies. Many films have dwelled on the ins and outs of the illegal drug business, but Lord Of War applies the GoodFellas-style insider confessional approach to a trade where death isn’t an unfortunate side effect but the main attraction: the arms business.

Much of the entry-level material is striking: a credits sequence gives a bullet’s eye-view as it takes a long journey from an American factory to an African head, and the narrator spiels lovingly about the Soviet 1947 model Kalashnikov (the AK-47, the real ‘weapon of mass destruction’). The Scarface dealer’s dictum (“Never get high on your own supply”) is wittily updated in the “first rule of gun-running” (“Never get shot with your own merchandise”), but it’s hard to make the weapons business as perversely exhilarating as the dope trade.

Movies fetishise guns, as the script acknowledges with the dictator’s son obsessed with owning “the gun of Rambo”, but there’s surprisingly little excitement in watching cases of ex-Soviet ‘machine parts’ being traded on Third World docks or in the back of beyond, even with hair’s-breadth escapes, car bomb assassinations and vividly horrid characters like Eamonn Walker’s all-purpose evil African dictator.

As often in criminal memoirs, it is hard to get really involved with a main character who — despite Nicolas Cage’s insidious charm — is just a shit. All Yuri Orlov’s unapologetic candour can’t make you care when his wife wants to leave him or his more morally ambivalent brother cracks up. The cat-and-mouse between Yuri and his Interpol nemesis (Hawke) leads to a last reel shift which is probably necessary from an audience’s point of view — reminding us that crooks like Yuri are minor operators next to the big governments who sell weapons legally — but really shouldn’t be news to supposed professionals.

It would like to be Traffic with guns, but comes out more like Blow with bullets. Impressive performances, fascinating info-bytes and pertinent editorial, but in the end, it feels too much like an illustrated lecture.

Reviewed by Kim Newman

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Lord Of War
Empire Star Rating

"I would tell you to go to hell, but I think your'e already there."

An outstanding drama that is both emotionally gripping and heart-touching. Nicholas Cage and Jared Leto give amazing performances. A must see. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Jericho117 at 07:56, 22 November 2013 | Report This Post

Lord of War Review

Lord of War is an intelligent examination of the gun trade that boasts some impressive performances. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 13:46, 14 February 2012 | Report This Post

Rather tedious

Slow, dull and predictable. Three words which can be used to descibe this snorefest. Its filmed well enough but the plot meanders along at such a pedestrian pace that the viewer's attention drifts away long before the end. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Francis46 at 00:30, 16 January 2010 | Report This Post


...brill film. A kinda pointless story but enough to keep you watching and keep you entertained! Really good scenes between Ethan Hawke and Nic Cage, you can feel the intensity from both performances! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by JokerJr at 18:17, 01 June 2007 | Report This Post

this gunrunning GoodFellas is bang on target, with an armour-piercing performance from Cage at its core. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by moviemaniac2 at 18:20, 24 March 2007 | Report This Post

Lord Of War

Andrew Niccol's film about gun running in modern culture is effective, although slightly slow in parts. The opening bullet sequence is excellent and from then on you get an interesting story about Yuri Orlov's life as a weapons dealer. Nic Cage gives a good performance and the film is violent and entertaining in good measure. Sure, there are times in the film when it feels like a bit of a lecture, but this is entertaining fare which is throughly enjoyable. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TOM101 at 19:33, 11 December 2006 | Report This Post

Eye-opening film about arms dealers. Cage gives a good performance, in a quite violent and informative film. The "Life Of A Bullet" credits sequence was just brilliant too. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by i007_Bond_007i at 14:04, 08 October 2006 | Report This Post

Eye-opening film about arms dealers. Cage gives a good performance, in a quite violent and informative film. The "Life Of A Bullet" credits sequence was just brilliant too. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by i007_Bond_007i at 14:04, 08 October 2006 | Report This Post

RE: Lord of ... not much, really

I did enjoy it, but it just seemed a little too slow in places, still an entertaining flick though ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Zaphod121 at 23:26, 20 June 2006 | Report This Post

RE: Lord of ... not much, really

*** SPOILERS *** Even though I enjoyed it I expected a bit more for some reason. The start where we see the bullet from manufacture to brain was really excellent. I didn't really see Jared Leto as some sort of pretty boy arms dealer though and his sudden instability leading to his death didn't ring quite true, however cage was excellent and the points made about the arms trade were great.   After 9/11 most of the big conventions/ fairs/ large scale organised gatherings wer... More

Posted by Fluke Skywalker at 13:38, 20 June 2006 | Report This Post

RE: Lord of ... not much, really

I really enjoyed it. And its in the sales now at around £6.99. Bargain ago go. ... More

Posted by Dready at 23:25, 19 June 2006 | Report This Post

RE: Lord of ... not much, really

Remember seeing this at the cinema and thinking it was good, bought it on DVD recently and realised that it is a really excellent film.   You've gotta like Cage. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lord of the pies at 21:29, 19 June 2006 | Report This Post

RE: Lord of ... not much, really

Just watched this last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. Good turns by messrs Cage, Leto and Hawke and a good script and plot that wasn't to preachy while getting it's message across. Possible gripes would be an underused Ian Holm and to be honest, a running time that was a little on the short side. It didnt give enough time to Cage and Moynahan's romance (Meet at a hotel, in love within the day, next scene marriage), Leto seems to become a drug-addict overnight and they ... More

Posted by KennyM at 21:19, 19 June 2006 | Report This Post

Lord of ... not much, really

Well, after a great opening sequence and subsequent opening dialogue, I left the cinema feeling like, other than the sledgehammer revelation at the end (made in text, not dialogue, mind) I’d not really seen anything particularly stimulating. The film, for me, gets lost between being a pseudo-documentary and study of single-mindedness. The problem is that the film is all about the arms dealing, and with no real study into what really motivates the lead character (Cage) to pursue his ambitio... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Major Gaper at 13:34, 04 May 2006 | Report This Post

Lord of War

It would like to be Traffic with guns, but comes out more like Blow with bullets -- True although Blow was better than this elongated bore.. and it only gets 2 stars from the exceptional opening sequence.. from which it descends into a mess of a film going everywhere and nowhere at the same time.. It even seams slow on x 4 on your remote !!! At least it reinforces your appreciation of stonger and bolder films such as Syriana Intacto ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by anewlan3 at 12:25, 04 May 2006 | Report This Post

Lord of War

Taken out of context of modern day politics and the current climate in Africa this has little more to offer than a nicely shot, well paced middle of the road film. It gets the extra star in much the same way that the more modern (and superior) Syriana did, for being current and important. Film making has never been all about entertainment and this film illustrates why. I suspect that Niccol is about to do something great, one to watch. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by qualidad at 16:18, 01 May 2006 | Report This Post

Lord of War

I was put off by the title of this film and as such avoided watching it in the cinema, however my brother insisted it was amazing and I have to say he was right! This is probably one of my favourite films of last year now and I was supremely impreseed by Cage's performance... oh, and lotsa guns! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jonnypatterson at 20:02, 12 March 2006 | Report This Post

"it feels too much like an illustrated lecture." Much like Fahrenheit 911 was a conspiracy theorist's wet dream, which I liked considerably. I can't help feel pity for Yuri. Even as he loses loved ones, he stills carries on with what 'he thinks' he's best at. There were points were I produced emotions (mainly anger) that rarely happens to me. The Conclusion came with an interesting fact, which I cannot shake off. 4/5 ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by DaisyCutter at 15:07, 10 March 2006 | Report This Post

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