At That Age, They All Look The Same Anyway.
Lord of War
Ah, the anti-hero. This particular character archetype is almost an American institution, like boorishness and the mispronunciation of ‘nuclear’, and has been gracing cinema screens since they stopped identifying good and bad guys by the color of their cowboy hats. They’re always hanging out in smoky bars, dangling a cigarette from their lips like all they know about smoking they learned from a Rebel Without A Cause poster. They don’t need love, or respect, or any of that pansy shit, all they need is money, a black handgun and a whisky bottle to drink directly from whenever the plot thickens. They’re the kind of people teenage boys think they’ll turn into if they can just save up enough tip money from bussing tables at Mexicali Rosa’s to buy a leather jacket, when in reality they just end up looking like one of those long-haired Russian immigrant metalheads with bullet belts who pump gas at a highway rest stop. Anti-heroes never let anyone tell them what to do, until the last act, when they grudgingly give up the big score to help out the damsel in distress, thus fulfilling the Biblical prophecy of redemption that informs every American movie ever made. I’ve complained about this before, but as long as they keep churning out the same screenplay structure, I’ll keep bitching, likely throwing in multiple clauses and a pornography reference as I do, just to keep things familiar.
But Lord of War, however, is not familiar. Or at least, not as familiar. Though the anti-hero is front and center, while the hypocritical screenwriter hovers in the background, clucking his tongue and lecturing us about greed and morality while begging us to root for the bad guy, this particular anti-hero does not follow the same path as his august companions. The anti-hero in question is Yuri Orlov, an arms dealer played by Nicholas Cage, an actor who has exactly two settings: quiet, and loud, and some punk kid in a Georgetown Hoyas cap long ago jammed gum in the ‘quiet’ position to try and guarantee a sequel to Con Air. Though Orlov gives it the old college try, he never quite manages to redeem himself by the end of the film. This seems like an interesting twist at first, but when it becomes apparent that the movie has followed a character from point A to point A, it sort of feels like you’ve wasted two hours as well as ten dollars. Cage is remorseless in his pursuit of worldly goods, trading guns to tyrants and despots the world over, pushing the bounds of human decency and my patience, in what is apparently intended to be a condemnation of American entrepreneurial spirit and government support of tyranny but ends up feeling like an enormous cop-out, like clicking through ten web pages promising pictures of two six year old boys coupling and ending up on the NAMBLA home page. Sure, I suppose there’s a condemnation in here somewhere, but it’s hard to find under all the safeguards the filmmakers have included. Cage is an American arms dealer, sure, but he’s not really, because he’s a Ukrainian immigrant, so he’s not all that American, plus his dad’s a Jew, so he’s not all that white, and he doesn’t go to either church or temple, so he’s clearly either soulless or educated. So, breath deep, America, he’s one of us, but we can still dislike him safely. Cage is on the run from Interpol agents, another shaky conceit, since I’m pretty sure all Interpol does is fail to enforce international copyright law while chasing Carmen Sandiego through world capitals.
This movie is basic filmmaking at it’s worst. I only saw this movie because the title sounds like the name of a song a six-foot tall Floridan dressed in black jeans and a swastika T-shirt might yell out on stage before launching into a ten-minute death metal dirge, but I was disappointed on even that childish level. The whole thing is based on this Ferris Bueller voice-over, like someone’s reading you a script and showing you the pretty pictures that go along with it. Plus, the film is scored with music that directly relates to the goings on, in case you mistook the narration for the two idiots sitting one seat apart in the row ahead of you still trying to carry on a conversation. Honestly, why would you do that? I mean, I’m as ragingly homophobic as the next guy, always fearing that should I, even in the quietest whisper during the dead of night, admit that George Clooney is a handsome fellow, I will be immediately sodomized by the cast of Rent while listening to an Arcade Fire CD, but even I will sit next to another man in a movie theatre. Not that it happens too often, as my male acquaintances have long since figured out that going to the movies with a guy who looks likes Satan’s bratty nephew works about as well at attracting women as pepper spray, but if the opportunity ever arises, I take the adjacent seat. I mean, what would happen if a bare breast were to wander on screen? Who would I reinforce my heterosexual manhood with by high fiveing, if not a male companion sitting next to me? If I have to reach over an empty seat to slap hands, I might fall over, causing the usher to think that my friend just went to a Nicholas Cage movie to get head from a 14 year old boy with a Mayhem tattoo. Then, the usher would spread the word throughout the civilized world that I was gay, and I’d never meet another woman, and I’d have to spend the rest of my days reading Gilmore Girls transcripts ordered by mail and trying to make myself feel powerful by bitterly attacking movies on the internet. And the next stop from there is NAMBLA.