The Hive

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

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Semi-drunken Lord of War review

I intend to brush this up when I have a more sober perspective tomorrow, but I think this is a decent condensation of how I thought about the movie. I was shooting for 350 words, which is so fucking few it's ridiculous, but ended up with 426, which should be okay.

Anyway, it's gonna need a modest revision, but I did rewrite a lot of it as I was going tonight. Should be enough for an initial look.

I watched the opening sequence of Lord of War--which follows a bullet from its manufacture in the U.S., to its sale to a foreign military, to its sale to an African para-military group, and, ultimately, to its final resting place embedded in the forehead of a boyhood African soldier--and was glad it was just me and my buddy in the theater, because my shouted response was not appropriate for mixed company.

It's rare a movie directly tackles political issues, and Nicolas Cage, as a first-generation Ukrainian in the Soviet neighborhood of Brighton Beach, NYC, has no interest in such matters himself: starting with sales of Uzis to Russian thugs or Russian guns to the Afghani militants they’re fighting, he doesn't care who he sells to or their cause, he just cares about the money.

As he moves from small-potatoes South American deals with his brother and increasingly substance-addicted partner Jared Leto to the vast markets of post-Cold War sales, his justifications for his place remain coldly economical. He sells guns, tanks, helicopters, but he doesn’t decide how they're used; if it weren't him, he says, it would just be someone else.

Cage's understated but powerful narration of a man following an ambitious but violent American dream sprints through his early years in scenes equally hilarious and shocking, and his rise to power, including the departure of the rehab-bound Leto, Cage's dupe of neighborhood model Bridget Moynahan into marriage, and his dangerously intimate partnership with African warlord Eamonn Walker, are breezy and natural. Interpol's Ethan Hawke hunts Cage for decades, but with Cage operating firmly in the gray area between legality and outright criminality, there's little to prosecute.

Lord of War begins to drag in the domestic segment of the final third--perhaps in part because of the breathlessly funny amorality of the first 80 minutes--but if it lags, it's only due to the darkly breakneck pace created by an opportunist who wants to make money no matter the cost in ethics or lives. We're rarely granted a glimpse at the humans that surround Cage, and at times the collapse of his relationships with his family seems distant, the drama out of place, unimportant beside the impact of his daily business.

If the heavy drama falls short, however, it's only in relation to a movie that is bracingly direct. Cage's death-dealer is as sympathetic as disquieting, and it's up to us to determine whether the gray evils of the arms trade are his to bear or the burden of the nations that supply them.


At 6:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's a rich review, but I'm not sure whether you liked it or hated it. Try looking at Roger Ebert's stuff or even for a point of reference. the review is fine, but you need to have a more clear cut answer.
i know it's a pain in the ass to do (having worked as a music critic for a couple of papers myself), but you've obviously got the chops. good luck!

At 1:47 AM, Blogger RhysDavid said...

WOOOOOOOOO!!! I'm DRUNK! i can't read amything!!! WOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!

I have so much good beer. I avoid bud, miller, etc if I can. I'm chuggin henry weinhard's and Oktoberfest Spaten from germany. I'M SO DRUNK!!!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

At 2:33 AM, Blogger Ed said...

That's awesome!

And you should have seen Ken tonight! Now THAT was a drunk man! We were out tailgating and he was so drunk he didn't care we were pouring gravel down his pants. Good times.

At 12:05 PM, Anonymous cricket said...

gravel down the pants? now that is the defintion of 'truly shitfaced' i was drinking margs so fast that i suffered from MASSIVE brain freeze. i kept yelling about how i needed '100 cc's of hot fudge, STAT!' how come you never write about that in your blogs?!

At 12:07 PM, Anonymous cricket said...

and when i say 'that' i mean the bit about putting gravel down ken's pants.

At 2:53 AM, Blogger Ed said...

I dunno, I have some block about writing about my daily life. Last night was pretty fucking funny, though, so I might get something up about it in the next few days.

You'll note, however, I did mention that I practically got planted onto the dance floor by some crazy girl tonight. That was such an undeniable holy shit moment that I just couldn't resist, though.

By the way, that was some solid feedback on the last review. I'm supposed to set up a meeting with the Moscow-Pullman paper editor this week, so I'll try to integrate that shit before I show him my samples.


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