The Hive

I'm just another dude with too much time on his hands. It really doesn't have anything to do with ants.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Lord of War thoughts

Saw Lord of War with Ken tonight, in part because one of the UPS store regulars is taking my contact info in to the local editor soon and because it was one of the few movies playing I had any interest in seeing/reviewing. It's been years since I went into a movie knowing nothing about it other than the previews--movies were too expensive in NY to go to without a screening process of reading a few reviews and deciding that it at least had the potential to be good, and besides, I don't really go to the movies just to go to the movies--so I'd been led to believe, by the previews, I was looking forward to a dumb action flick.

Dumb action flicks can be great, of course, and the excitement of booms and shooting stuff is often better than your average non-violent movie, so it's not like I was going in thinking "Booooring" or anything. I just wasn't expecting to have to think too hard about it.

Lord of War, though. Not really an action flick. Not really at all.

Didn't take long to realize that, either. The movie's about an arms dealer (which was pretty much the only hard fact I knew about it to that point), and the opening sequence follows a camera mounted on a bullet as its brass is stamped out in a factory, loaded up with gunpowder and clapped with a tip, shipped off to some military organization that appeared to be Russian but could really be anywhere, sold to an anonymous African country, spilled out into the dry dry dust, loaded up into a soldier's AK, then, finally, fired straight into the forehead of a gun-wielding African boy.

Ken and I were the only ones in the theater, and as soon as the entry wound punched into the kid's head, I sat up and said "That was fucking awesome."

Because it was. You don't see that shit in movies--specifically arms sold from America to international conflicts, but more eyebrow-raisingly, you don't see kids getting shot. You just don't. It's like, not kosher.

The first third or so follows Nicolas Cage moving from a first-generation Ukrainian-American looking forward to a long and definitely not fruitful life at the family's restaurant in Brighton Beach to selling uzis to local Russian thugs and, not long after, guns of wide variety (but particularly Kalashnikovs) to buyers throughout the world. He starts small-time and works his way up in fairly standard "fight-your-way-to-the-top" progression, but his rise is punctuated by such dark, cutting humor involving who's selling the guns, who's buying them, and how they're being used that it never lags. It had me captivated, actually. I had no idea how they were going to keep it up through a whole movie, and said as much to Ken after it'd been sprinting through that first 30-40 minutes, but up till then, that movie fucking ruled.

And, predictibly enough, it couldn't keep it up. It started to slow as Cage got married (though the courting process itself was pretty damn good), and even staggered a bit as the ethics of his trade--a trade which he justifies through any number of capitalist arguments, sometimes convincing, sometimes approaching nauseating--begins to wear on his family. His wife, his kid, his parents, and his brother all end up alienated and hurt by the way he's made his millions, and while I do like the exploration of how amoral capitalism can hurt everyone involved, there's just something wrong with it in this movie. It's kind of flat.

I'm not even sure exactly what it is--maybe the characters aren't developed quite far enough to really care about them, or maybe it's weird to see it getting so heavily dramatic after the basically commentless depiction of all this crazy shit that ends up working as devastating satire and commentary, or maybe it's just that the first part was so good and the second part wasn't. It still had its moments, and it wasn't like it was bad by any stretch, it just dropped off. It started slogging around in pedestrian familial stuff that could have come as a result of any kind of problem, be it adultery or addiction or whatever else, and kind of left off from the really out-there arms smuggling it had drawn us into so deep.

So I dunno. I really, really liked some parts of it, and thought its ambitions were totally out of control--basically a critique of all arms-dealing nations, and the excesses of capitalism, and then also a heavy family drama, and also it's just fucking funny. But it can't handle all the threads it's trying to weave, and to see them unravel after the absurdly good setup it had going, well, it's a little disappointing in that way where you pump your first and say "Come on!" and you're mad because you want it to just take that last step towards greatness, and it can't.

Also it had Karim Said from Oz. And Ethan Hawke, who I really like.

What it comes down to, then, is this was a really interesting movie, one I wish I could watch another time or two before reviewing it. Cause it's gonna be a serious bitch to try to condense all those things and give a good rundown of the plot in 350 words.

I'll see what I can do after another day or two to ruminate on it. If nothing else, it's got great potential to be a knockout review--or at worst something that comes close. Which, considering the movie in question, is nothing but appropriate.


At 11:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

his name is Eamonn Walker (Karim Said). He's a Brit and a fucking awesome actor. Film sounds interesting, especially since Nic Cage named his firstborn Kal-El. He's so crazy cool.

At 12:55 PM, Blogger RhysDavid said...

In conclusion: the word ruminate is AWESOME! I've been wanting to see this movie, and still do after reading this.

Nicholas Cage IS cool. I remember hearing this rumor back in high-school, about him supposedly starring in a new Superman movie. Now he's named his kid Kal-El. Wierd.

At 12:59 PM, Blogger Ed said...

Yeah, I kind of feel bad for not knowing his name before, cause Said was one of my favorite characters. But then, the only dudes from Oz whose names I know are the ones that ended up on Law and Order (i.e. roughly half of them.) I don't even know who played Beecher.

I really don't know about Nicolas Cage. Mostly I don't like him at all, but now and then he'll play a role where I like what he's doing with it.

But it's totally undeniable that naming your kid after Superman rules.

At 1:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beecher was played by Lee Tergesen...trivia, he was also one of Wayne and Garth's headbanging friends in the movies...the 'I love you, man' guy. My faves were the o'reily boys, keller, and harold perrineau's character (the name completely escapes me). he was the narrator. funny i can remember the real name but not the character name. Oz was a great show but had a shit final episode. i was not happy.

At 12:19 AM, Blogger RhysDavid said...

the actor who played Beecher also appeared in episode of SVU as a lawyer. I don't remember him sharing any scenes with Meloni, though it would've been interesting.


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