Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
Writer-director Andrew Niccol removed himself from the sci-fi realm (Gattaca, S1m0ne) for 2005’s Lord of War, but not from lethal satire.
Lord traced the lines on dirtied hands in a dirty business with startling special effects (a scene tracking a bullet from factory to forehead), volatile political potshots and an increasingly rare character-study risk from Nicolas Cage — an actor who’s grown less interesting as he’s grown more popular.
Repulsive but riveting, Cage modulates his madness as Yuri Orlov, a Ukrainian-born gunrunner whose business blossoms with global destabilization. In a world with more guns than teachers for every 12 people and bullets changing governments far surer than votes, Orlov sees transactions where others see travesty.
Eventually, Yuri’s secrecy and tyrannical control unravel as his business collides with his trophy wife (Bridget Moynahan), cocaine-addicted brother (Jared Leto) and a dogged ATF agent (Ethan Hawke, in a rare less-is-more moment). Neither Yuri nor the film arrives at any conventional clarity.
Niccol’s script crafts countless, astonishingly amoral observations, couched in Yuri’s compelling, chillingly candid narration and incendiary exchanges of dialogue.
This is a carefully choreographed devil’s dance in which Cage finds fleet-footed rejuvenation, playing a man who knows evil can’t exist without good, but that evil generally prevails.
That’s because nations and people often condone in secret what they condemn in public — creating righteous collateral while sustaining comfort. That alone doesn’t make anyone evil, just human — a stinging, wicked truth that the uniquely unsympathetic, witheringly intelligent Lord of War earns the right to fling.