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Lord Of War
Written and directed by Andrew Niccol in 2005, Lord Of War tells the story of a native Brooklynite named Yuri Orlov (Nicolas Cage) who has a knack for trouble. When he sees two Russian mobster take out two assassins gunning for him, he comes to the conclusion that he's not making the kind of money that he'd like to. It's then that he decides to look into another option: selling illegal guns. Yuri's a fast talker and a natural salesman and soon enough, he's using those gifts to sell guns to local gangsters.
As Yuri's new venture starts to take off, he's making more and more money and selling more and more guns to the point where he's expanded out of his local neighborhood and taken things to a much, much larger scale. With international sales becoming an increasingly important and profitable venture for him he strikes up an alliance with an African dictator named Andre Baptiste Sr. (Eamonn Walker) and his son. Throughout all of this, his relationship with his younger brother and partner, Vitaly (Jared Leto), starts to show signs of cracking as does his marriage to a beautiful model named Ava Fontaine (Bridget Moynahan). As Yuri starts to wrestle with the morality of what he does for a living, INTERPOL agent Jack Valentine (Ethan Hawke) starts to focus on him all while Yuri's cocaine addiction becomes increasingly problematic for him.
Partially based on the real-life story of Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, Lord Of War can't quite manage to end as strongly as it begins but it is still very much a worthwhile watch. Technically the film is quite well made, with some slick camera work and excellent sound design helping to build mood and atmosphere. It's glossy enough, but not so glossy that the visuals overshadow the story. As to the story? It's quite compelling. Niccol's script is intelligent and interesting, managing to create plenty of legitimate suspense while also filling the screen with characters we want to know more about. It can be a little heavy handed in spots, but its well-aimed barbs at those who quite literally traffic in death are justified so we can let that pass.
The performances from all of the leads are strong. Cage is in very good form here, never really chewing the scenery as he has in some of his more infamous roles, but instead crafting a character that is as interesting to us as he is so clearly and deeply flawed. And man, is he flawed. Cage does well here. Jared Leto, as the more moralistic younger brother, also delivers fine work. He and cage have an interesting on-screen relationship here, and Leto gets as much credit for that as Cage does. When he starts to really wrestle with what they're doing, he delivers some really solid and believably emotional acting. Ethan Hawke is also really good as the INTERPOL agent out to put a stop to all of this, or at least to as much of it as he can.
Supporting work from Walker also adds a lot to the movie. As Baptiste, he's quite the monster and Walker is chillingly convincing in the role. The lovely Bridget Moynahan is also solid here as Yuri's wife.
Lord Of War is given its 4k UHD review in an HEVC / H.265 encoded 2160p transfer framed at 2.40.1 widescreen on a 66GB disc with HDR and it looks good considering how filtered it is with some of its coloring. The picture has a heavy blue tint for much of its running time but that said, colors are reproduced really nicely here. Black levels look spot on and both detail and texture are very strong, frequently quite impressive. There are no noticeable compression problems to note and the image is free of obvious noise reduction, edge enhancement or other digital anomalies. Skin tones look fine as well. No complaints, really, this is a nice, filmic picture that advances over Blu-ray.
The main audio option on the disc is an English language Dolby Atmos track and again, the results impress. The action scene in particular really open up here, with gun shots and related sounds really delivering an impressive amount of kick. Dialogue is always crystal clear and the score has good range and presence to it. The track is also completely clean, with no audible problems with any hiss or distortion noticeable during playback. Optional subtitles are provided in English, English SDH and Spanish.
Extras, all of which are carried over from the original Blu-ray release (there's nothing new here) start off with an audio commentary featuring writer/director Andrew Niccol. It's an interesting track wherein he discusses the inspiration for the film, the politics of the story, working with the cast and crew, what it was like working with the three leads used in the picture and plenty more.
The disc also includes a couple of featurettes, the first of which is The Making Of Lord Of War, which runs twenty-minutes. It's more of an EPK style piece than an in-depth look at the making of the picture but some of the behind the scenes footage that it contains is interesting, and that does make it worth checking out. The second featurette is Making A Killing: Inside The International Arms Trade, a fifteen-minute piece that examines exactly what the title suggests. It also makes the case that the movie is reasonably fact based, more than you might expect it to be.
Rounding out the extras are seven-minutes of deleted scenes, menus and chapter stops. Included inside the case with the UHD disc is a Blu-ray version of the movie and an insert card containing a digital download code. This release also comes packaged with a slipcover.
Lord Of War is an imperfect but entertaining thriller made all the better by some solid acting from the leads. It's frequently quite tense and plenty slick in terms of its visual style and its sound design. Lionsgate's 4k UHD/Blu-ray combo pack is a pretty solid release overall, presenting the film in very good shape and carrying over pretty much all of the extras from the older DVD special edition release. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.