Lord of War

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Lord of War
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAndrew Niccol
Written byAndrew Niccol
Produced by
CinematographyAmir Mokri
Edited byZach Staenberg
Music byAntonio Pinto
Distributed byLions Gate Films (United States)
20th Century Fox (Germany)[1]
SND Films (France)[1]
Release date
  • September 16, 2005 (2005-09-16) (United States)
Running time
121 minutes
  • United States
  • Germany[2]
  • France
Budget$50 million
Box office$72.6 million[3]

Lord of War is a 2005 American crime drama film[4] written, produced, and directed by Andrew Niccol, and co-produced by and starring Nicolas Cage.

The film was released in the United States on September 16, 2005, to positive reviews and was a modest commercial success, grossing $72.6 million at the box office.

Cage plays a fictional illegal arms dealer, inspired by the stories of several real-life arms dealers and smugglers.[5][6][7] The film was officially endorsed by the human rights group Amnesty International for highlighting the issue of illicit arms trafficking by the international arms industry.[8][9]


In the early 1980s, Yuri Orlov (Nicolas Cage), the eldest son of a family of Ukrainian refugees, is visiting a Brighton Beach restaurant, where he witnesses a Russian mobster kill two would-be assassins holding Kalashnikov rifles. The incident inspires him to go into the arms trade; Yuri muses that the constant need for weapons is the similar to the human need for food and drink, thus he can make a fortune. After successfully completing his first sale of Uzi sub machine gun to a local mobster, Yuri convinces his younger brother, Vitaly (Jared Leto), to become his partner.

The two brothers get their first big break during the 1982 Lebanon War, where they sell weapons to both Israeli and Lebanese troops despite witnessing the same weapons being used to commit war crimes and other atrocities. As Yuri begins to prosper by exploiting his growing network of business connections, he comes to the attention of Interpol and in particular, an idealistic agent named Jack Valentine (Ethan Hawke). Valentine represents a unique threat to Yuri because he is after glory, not money, and thus cannot be bought off.

Vitaly becomes addicted to cocaine after a Colombian drug lord forces the brothers to accept several kilos of cocaine to pay for an arms sale of numerous Glock 17 pistols. Yuri quietly checks Vitaly into a drug rehabilitation clinic and continues his business alone. He lures childhood crush Ava Fontaine (Bridget Moynahan) to a false photo shoot, and they subsequently get married and have a son.

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Yuri flies to Ukraine and illegally buys Russian tanks, guns, and munitions through his uncle, a former Soviet general who is overseeing the distribution of weapons to the Ukrainian army. Yuri then expands his business to Africa, where he begins a business relationship with Andre Baptiste Sr. (Eamonn Walker), a ruthless dictator engaged in a brutal civil war in Liberia. During one flight into Africa in 2001, Yuri's plane is intercepted by Valentine and forced to land. Yuri escapes arrest by landing in a remote area and giving away all of his cargo to the locals. Valentine then tells Ava her husband is an arms dealer, prompting her to confront him. To please his wife, Yuri tries to legitimize his business, but soon becomes frustrated with the difficulties and lower earnings of honest work. When Baptiste visits him in person and offers him the largest payday of his career, a stash of valuable blood diamonds, Yuri goes back to crime.

Yuri picks up Vitaly to assist him with a major deal in Sierra Leone, where a militia force allied with Baptiste is visibly preparing to destroy a refugee camp. Unable to stomach his guilt, Vitaly pleads with Yuri to abandon the deal, but his brother refuses knowing that Baptiste's men will kill them for refusing to hand over the guns. Vitaly then steals a pair of grenades and uses them to destroy a truck full of weapons, accidentally killing Baptiste's son. He is gunned down by the militia, and while Yuri is spared due to his relationship with Baptiste Sr., he only receives half of the diamonds he was promised.

Yuri ships his brother's remains back to the United States. He pays a doctor to forge a phony death certificate and remove the bullets from Vitaly's body, but one bullet remains, and Yuri is apprehended by federal agents. Meanwhile, while being followed by Valentine, Ava finds a security container belonging to her husband, finally establishing definitive proof of Yuri's guilt. Ava also finds the container full of her paintings, which Yuri secretly bought to prop up her career as an artist. Ava takes their son and leaves him for good. When Yuri tries to reconcile with his parents, his mother angrily disowns him for getting Vitaly killed.

Valentine detains Yuri in anticipation of his trial and conviction, but Yuri is unfazed. He then tells Valentine that, in a matter of minutes, a high-ranking American army officer will arrive and release him without any charges being filed. He explains that while he may be a criminal, the U.S. government is willing to turn a blind eye to his crimes because most of his weapons end up in the hands of their allies, who they cannot be seen publicly supplying with arms. Valentine then hears a knock at the door and realizes that Yuri is right, but before walking away, he says "I would tell you to go to hell, but I think you're already there."

Yuri soon returns to the arms trade, claiming that it's what he does best. The film concludes with a statement on how the five largest arms producers in the world are also the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.



The producer largely financed the film with funding from outside the U.S. He claimed this was due to the highlighting of U.S. involvement in the international arms trade.[12]

Some of the Russian language dialogues in the film (mostly those by Eugene Lazarev as Gen. Volkov) contain very obscene Russian mat wording, translated by far softer expressions in the original English subtitles. It is unclear whether these pieces were part of the script, or Lazarev's improvisation.

A scene in the film featured 50 tanks, which were provided by a Czech source. The tanks were only available until December of the year of filming, as the dealer needed them to sell in Libya.[13] The production team bought 3000 real SA Vz. 58 rifles to stand in for AK-47s because they were cheaper than prop guns.[14]


Critical reception[edit]

Lord of War received fairly positive reviews from critics; the film received a 61% rating on Rotten Tomatoes; the consensus states: "While Lord of War is an intelligent examination of the gun trade, it is too scattershot in its plotting to connect."[15] The film also received a special mention for excellence in filmmaking from the National Board of Review. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, gave the film three and a half out of four stars, writing "After movies like Hotel Rwanda, Before the Rain and Welcome to Sarajevo, the cold cynicism of Lord of War plays like a deadly footnote."[16]

It received a 62/100 score from Metacritic.[17]

Box office[edit]

The film grossed $9,390,144 on its opening weekend, ranking number three at the North American box office behind Just Like Heaven and The Exorcism of Emily Rose. After the film's 7 weeks of release, it grossed a total of $24,149,632 on the domestic market (US and Canada), and $48,467,436 overseas, for a worldwide total of $72,617,068.[1]

Home media[edit]

Lord of War was released on Blu-ray, DVD and VHS on January 18, 2006.[18] A 4K UHD Blu-ray transfer of Lord of War was released on March 19, 2019.[19]

The UK DVD release of Lord of War includes, prior to the film, an advertisement for Amnesty International, showing the AK-47 being sold on a shopping channel of the style popular on cable networks. The American DVD release includes a bonus feature that shows the various weapons used in the film, allowing viewers to click on each weapon to get statistics about their physical dimensions and histories. The DVD bonus section also contains a public service announcement from Nicolas Cage that addresses the issue of illicit arms sales.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Lord of War at Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ a b "Lord of War". British Film Institute. London. Archived from the original on December 3, 2013. Retrieved September 30, 2012.
  3. ^ "Lord of War (2005) - Financial Information". The Numbers.
  4. ^ Deming, Mark. "Lord of War". Allmovie. Retrieved September 30, 2012.
  5. ^ "Viktor Bout: in the Movies". Ruudleeuw.com. December 24, 2005. Retrieved 2012-10-30.
  6. ^ Lintner, Bertil (November 10, 2007). "A necessary evil". Asia Times. Archived from the original on May 13, 2008. Retrieved 2012-10-30.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  7. ^ "William Norman Grigg: "Permanent War, Perpetual Profiteering"". Archived from the original on September 18, 2007.
  8. ^ "Lord of War" (Press release). Amnesty International. 2006. Archived from the original on 2007-10-12. Retrieved 2007-09-17.
  9. ^ Hamid, Rahul (Spring 2006). "Lord of War/Syriana". Cineaste. 31 (2): 52–55.
  10. ^ "'Lord of war' arms trafficker arrested". the Guardian. 2008-03-07. Retrieved 2021-08-17.
  11. ^ Suebsaeng, Asawin. "Charles Taylor Convicted of War Crimes. Finally!". Mother Jones. Retrieved 2021-08-17.
  12. ^ [1]
  13. ^ History Television, series Fact and Film, episode "Lord of War"
  14. ^ "Director finds real guns cheaper than props". The New Zealand Herald. NZPA. September 14, 2005. Archived from the original on 6 September 2012. Retrieved October 15, 2011.
  15. ^ Lord of War at Rotten Tomatoes
  16. ^ "Lord of War". RogerEbert.com. September 2005. Archived from the original on 2020-01-20. Retrieved 2020-03-15.
  17. ^ Lord of War at Metacritic
  18. ^ "Lord of War DVD Release Date January 17, 2006". DVDs Release Dates. Retrieved 2019-01-23.
  19. ^ Lord of War 4K Blu-ray, retrieved 2019-01-23

External links[edit]