Lord of War

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A 2005 political crime thriller staring Nicolas Cage, Bridget Moynihan, Ethan Hawke, Jared Leto and Eamonn Walker. It revolves around Yuri Orlov, Ukrainian-American arms merchant extraordinaire, based on the Real Life Russian traffickers Viktor Bout and Leonid Minin. The film starts out with Yuri Orlov (played by Cage) standing amid a pile of shell cases with combat in the background, telling the audience how the world has enough guns in circulation for one out of every twelve people - five hundred and fifty million in total. The only question, he continues ... is how to arm the other eleven.


Tropes used in Lord of War include:
  • Affably Evil:
    • Andre Baptiste is entirely friendly and welcoming to Yuri, despite clearly being a Complete Monster. Andre Junior is even worse but no less affable, if only around Yuri.
    • Yuri himself, who is the protagonist but is frankly an amoral (at best) arms dealer.
  • All Guys Want Cheerleaders: Including the sons of African dictators who dress up their women as the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • Soviet troops in the 1990s are shown using Chinese copies of the AKM, years after the AKM was removed from Soviet service. See Artistic License Military below.
  • Arms Dealer:
    • Yuri Orlov (the eponymous "Lord of War"), Simeon Weisz, and some minor characters.
    • In a meta sense too. A real Czech dealer was actually used for props for the film - it turned out to be cheaper to borrow 3000 real Czech SA Vz. 58 rifles, visually similar but totally different to the AK, than to buy 3000 replicas! The row of tanks were not only real, but were rented from an actual arms dealer (the staff worked closely with several while filming). The scene had to be rushed because the dealer had a buyer and unexpectedly needed them back. Also, the filmmakers had to inform NATO that the satellite images they're getting of tanks gathering is not of a preparation for invasion.
  • Arms Fair: Several, mostly of the illegal variety. Where else would an Arms Dealer hang out?
  • Arrow Cam: The opening sequence shows a bullet's eye view from manufacture to firing at a child.
  • Artistic License Military: The Soviet Union phased out the AKM [1] in 1974, replacing it with the similar-looking-yet-very-different AK-74, in 5.45x39mm. Further, Soviet troops (including Nicholas Cage's son Weston) in the early 1990s are shown using Norinco Type 56-1, Chinese copies of the AKMS, despite Soviet troops never using Chinese equipment, especially after the withdrawl of 7.62x39mm weapons from service, and SA Vz. 58 rifles, Czech copies of the Stg-44 in 7.62x39mm, in the background of the Ukrainian armoury. The majority of rifles given to guerilla troops, however, are, in fact Soviet AKM rifles and East German AKMS rifles, as well as the occasional real, very rare AK-47.
  • Ax Crazy: Andre Baptiste Jr., and his father as well, shooting one of his own men for even looking sideways towards his woman. Usually more restrained though.
  • Ballistic Discount: Lampshaded once, subverted twice - Yuri tells his first client that the suppressors on his guns are so quiet they could kill him there and then and not be heard in the next room, causing him to point the gun at him before he points out that firing would eliminate the potential for repeat business. Later another client almost does kill Yuri after Yuri rejects his price (because it's cocaine he's offering not cash) but just shoots him in the side. Yuri wisely chooses to take the drugs in payment.
  • Because I'm Good At It: The ultimate reason Yuri never gives up arms dealing, despite the many reasons he has to give it up and settle down for a normal life.
  • Becoming the Mask: Minor example, but still technically applicable - Yuri's dad. He emigrated from Soviet Ukraine to America under the pretense of being Jewish. He would later on fully embrace the Jewish lifestyle, opening a store with the Star of David as part of the logo, faithfully attending synagogue services, and even obeying orthodox Jewish dietary laws, much to the annoyance of his Catholic wife.
  • Being Evil Sucks: Yuri has realized how much destruction he caused but can never repair it... not that he really cares.
  • Black Comedy: The first half of the movie has a fair amount; the second half is pretty much straight (and very depressing) drama.
  • Black and Gray Morality: Yuri himself is evil, but he is nowhere near as bad as Baptiste. The staunchly heroic Jack Valentine is pretty unambiguously good, so the movie doesn't necessarily imply that there is no white morality. It just suggests that the good guys aren't very effective. Or affable, comparatively.
  • Bling Bling Bang: Baptiste Junior has a gold plated custom built conglomerate of several AK variants.
  • Book Ends: The movie starts and ends with Yuri providing exposition behind a lot of bullet casings.
  • Boom! Headshot!: At the beginning of the movie.
  • Born Lucky: Yuri. He narrowly avoids a whole lot of trouble from badly concealed weaponry entirely by chance - had Valentine chosen to watch the potatoes for five more seconds, he'd have noticed the crate marked "M16"... but the epitome of Yuri's luck almost defies belief. There are very few ways a white, rich man can walk in a war-torn African city on a high and survive despite having unprotected sex with a prostitute, an encounter with a pack of hyenas and two gangsters who would have shot him if their AKs had not jammed. The whole sequence serves to show how Yuri has sunk so low that he can't even die. At this point Yuri himself thinks he's cursed rather than blessed.
  • Brick Joke: Of a very dark variety. Early on when Baptiste Jr. first meets Yuri, he asks him if he can get "the gun of Rambo" (the M60). Later when both Baptistes go to Yuri's house to get him to return to the gun trade, Jr. says he's still waiting for the gun. Eventually we finally see Jr. with the gun...which he promptly uses to gun down innocent civilians while Yuri looks away cringing.
  • By-The-Book Cop: Jack Valentine.
  • The Caligula: Andre Baptiste Sr. has elements of the character type, but it's an arguable case as he doesn't have clear control over his country.
  • Child Soldiers: Baptiste's Kalashnikov Kids, his Boys Brigade.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Literally.
  • Chronic Villainy: Yuri tries to go straight after his wife calls him out on his actions (it's stated at one point that Yuri has made enough money for them to retire comfortably), but the profit margins are just too low when he's doing it legally. Baptiste shows up at his door in New York, which shakes Yuri up, but more to the point, at heart, Yuri is the titular Lord of War, gunrunning's his business, and he's good at it.
  • Cluster F-Bomb:
    • Vitaly after Yuri ruins his drawing of a detailed outline of Ukraine with cocaine on a table: "Fuck you, you fucking fuck! Fuck!"
    • Yuri while trying to encourage a pilot to land a cargo plane on the middle of a road in Africa: "You're the shit, Alexi! You're the shit, you're the shit, you're the shit!"
  • Cold War: At first. Later, Yuri subverted Why We're Bummed Communism Fell; he's positively thrilled that the Soviet Union collapsed, because it's great for his business.
  • Commissar Cap: Many Russian officers wear them.
  • Completely Missing the Point: This exchange.
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Yuri: How many Kalashnikovs do you have?
Uncle Dimitri: Forty thousand.
Yuri: Is that a four? Doesn't look like a four to me. Looks more like a one.
Uncle Dimitri: [Looks at clipboard] No, it's a four.

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  • Composite Character: Yuri is a composite of five different Real Life arms dealers, though Bout and Minin are the most prevalent.
  • Concealment Equals Cover:
    • Subtly averted. The mobster who hides behind a restaurant table only has his luck and the assassins bad aim to thank for escaping the assassination attempt. When we're shown the scene from behind him, it's clear the table has been shot clearly through - he's only alive because the gunmen are woefully incompetent and have sprayed and prayed instead of shooting the table in the centre.
    • Averted a second time as Yuri and his brother are almost gunned down walking in an alley way as bullets erupt from one of the walls. On the other side of the wall Child Soldiers are being executed.
  • Cool Shades: Yuri frequently wears them, but it's only for practical purposes, since sun-filled Africa is his most frequent destination.
  • Cowboy Cop: Subverted. Agent Valentine clearly wants to be one of these at times - sometimes quite visibly struggling with himself - but over the course of the entire movie he resists the temptation to break his own code of conduct, adhering strictly to the rule of law at all times. It doesn't work out all that well for him.
  • Cunning Linguist: Yuri is shown to have a gift for languages and acts as the translator of the two brothers, speaking fluent English, Russian, Spanish and Chinese.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Yuri, both in the narration, and actually in-character.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Pay attention to Valentine's face when Yuri makes his final speech. He gets closer and closer to this over the course of the speech and finally crosses when the door knocks.
  • Downer Ending: Yuri's brother and uncle are killed, his parents disown him, his wife leaves him and takes his only son with her. Agent Valentine's view of justice and righteousness are shattered when Yuri is allowed to go free after being caught red-handed, due to his role as a "necessary evil." And Yuri is left to ponder whether or not the United States will dispose of him when he stops being useful to them. On the other hand, Yuri is free and rich, so depending on how sympathetic you find him this could qualify as a Bittersweet Ending. Even if you're rooting for Yuri, the end is pretty depressing (see Pyrrhic Victory below).
  • Dramatic Gun Cock
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Lampshaded and subverted in the scene where one of Yuri's customers tries to pay him in cocaine. Yuri initially refuses since he deals in arms not drugs, saying he has standards when the customer tells him to diversify. Yuri gets a bullet in the side for his defiance, agrees to the deal and duly makes a tidy profit off the cocaine.
    • Subverted in another scene: Yuri says he refused to sell weapons to Osama Bin Laden. Not because of ethical reasons, but because Bin Laden's checks kept bouncing.
    • Vitaly's demise is because of having standards. It is clear that the guns he and Yuri are selling to the African guerrilla leader will be used to massacre a nearby refugee camp, and he kills Andre Baptiste Jr. and tosses a grenade in one of the trucks of guns. He is promptly shot, and Yuri only gets half of the agreed price.
  • Family Values Villain: Yuri may be an amoral arms dealer, but he cares about his wife and son, and doesn't even want him playing with toy guns.
  • Firing in the Air a Lot: Baptiste Jr. Someone must spend a lot of time reloading his custom gold-plated magazines for him.
  • Firing One-Handed: Several (apparently not very-well trained) African mooks do this.
  • First Law of Tragicomedies
  • First-Person Smartass: Yuri, oh so very much. Arguably a large part of the appeal of the movie is hearing Nicolas Cage's deadpan, snarky voiceover commenting on the often very serious scenes.
  • Former Regime Personnel: Yuri's uncle, former Red Army general.
  • Foreign Language Tirade: Discussed:
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Yuri Orlov: Curious how you always revert to your native tongue in moments of extreme anger... [cut to Yuri and Vitaly having sex with two girls they picked up] and ecstasy.

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"That rarest of law enforcement officer...unwilling to break the law himself" in order to catch Yuri.

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I prefer it my way.

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  • Interpol Special Agent: Jack Valentine.
  • Impairment Shot: The entire scene of Yuri wandering around the African city while drunk and high.
  • In Your Nature to Destroy Yourselves: Yuri believes this about humanity, and it's why he feels little guilty about gunrunning ... at first, that is.
  • Just Like Making Love: "Selling a gun for the first time is a lot like having sex for the first time. You're excited but you don't really know what the hell you're doing. And some way, one way or another, it's over too fast."
  • Karma Houdini: Yuri is, sort of, but at a price.
  • The Load: Vitaly is a major burden on Yuri, both as far as his business and family go. However, he also functions as his Morality Pet, so he keeps him around.
  • The Mafiya
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Despite getting shot in the leg by an angry warlord, Yuri still completes a sale, and doesn't even pass out from the blood loss afterward.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: The hitmen who try to assassinate the Russian gangster early in the film.
  • Mock Millionaire: Yuri pretends to be a millionaire to impress his supermodel wife-to-be. Of course, when his business takes off, his wealth ends up "surpassing the lies about [his] wealth".
  • Mood Whiplash: About halfway through, the film goes from dark but humorous to dark and outright depressing.
  • More Dakka: Jean Baptiste Jr.'s M60.
  • Motivational Lie: At one point, Yuri's only possible way out of being arrested is to have his pilot try a dengerous landing on an ordinary road. When the pilot balks, Yuri keeps telling him that he can do it because he's the best, all while Yuri is thinking about how the pilot graduated almost at the bottom of his flight school. It works.
  • Mushroom Samba: After Yuri snorts Brown Brown (cocaine mixed with gunpowder, which they give the child soldiers so they'll "do anything"), he goes on a trek around the city. The whole scene is incredibly surreal, replete with hallucinations and is easily one of the darkest moments of the film.
  • Necessary Evil: Yuri labels himself as such at the end of the film.
  • NGO Superpower: Interpol, in the film, has much greater policing jurisdiction than it does in real life.
  • Noble Demon: Simeon Weisz seems to think of himself as this.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • Andre Baptiste (senior) is partially based on Charles Taylor, former leader of Liberia.
    • And Colonel Oliver Southern is an obvious Expy of Oliver North, the Reagan-appointed official who was an alleged head of the Iran-Contra arms deals.
  • Not So Different: A variation on this: while high on Brown Brown, Yuri encounters a hyena, and they just stare at each other for a long time. One is an opportunistic predator who profits from the misfortunes of other creatures. The other is a hyena.
  • The Password Is Always Swordfish: The code to unlock Yuri's secret container where he hides his gun running documents and items is the date of his son's birthday, which Ava realizes within less than a minute.
  • Perma-Stubble: Vitaly has it, which doubles as a Beard of Sorrow since he's an incompetent, drug-addicted loser compared to his brother, and he knows it.
  • Plausible Deniability: It's revealed in the end that Yuri acts as a middleman for the US Government, selling arms to goverments and groups that the US doesn't want to be publicly associated with. Even though this effectively gives him a "Get Out of Jail Free" Card, Yuri bleakly wonders when his benefactors will decide that he's no longer useful to them.
  • People's Republic of Tyranny: Yuri notes that in Africa, the more high-sounding and noble a political faction's name is, the less likely it is to be like it claims. See The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized.
  • Pragmatic Villainy:
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Yuri: I never sold to Osama bin Laden. Not on any moral grounds; back then, he was always bouncing checks.

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  • Pretty Little Headshots: Repeatedly and sickeningly averted.
  • Pyrrhic Villainy: Yuri manages to evade the law and escape a long stay in prison to continue his gunrunning. However, this comes at the cost of his brother and uncle being killed, his parents disowning him, and his one true love divorcing him and taking his only son with her. Plus he seems to realize that he's the bad guy in all this, but he can't get away from it. He is also aware that he only escaped jail due to being considered useful to the U.S. government which means that as soon as he stops being useful, he will be disposed of. This is hammered home by the Interpol agent chasing him saying that he would like to wish that Yuri would go to Hell, but he thinks he's already there.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: The writers were apprehensive about including Brown Brown in the movie, fearing that the audience would think that its been made up. The bartender, however, should not have been able to remove the bullet from the cartidge, though.
  • Real Life:
    • As stated above, Yuri and his exploits are based on real people, along with the horrible facts of the international arms trade. Yuri notes the five main arms dealers in the world are governments holding permanent UN Security Council seats, with a veto over any General Assembly resolutions to stop trafficking. They are: the US, UK, France, Russia and Germany (China in the movie, though it's actually the 11th greatest arms dealer in the world. Probably changed to encompass all of the five permanent members of the Security Council. Still, four out of five...the point is made.
    • The film makers found it cheaper to have gun dealers provide real weapons and tanks for the film props. The tanks you see in the movie had to be back to their gun dealer for his deal with a foreign country.
    • The cargo plane in the film was also borrowed from the same dealer. In the commentaries, Word of God joked about how they had to use CGI for the scene where the plane gets gutted because it's owner would not be happy if they really trashed his cargo plane.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Played for laughs and deadly seriously.
  • Redemption Equals Death:
    • Vitaly appears to invoke this, given he surely realizes he won't get away with destroying an arms deal and killing the son of the leader of the country orchestrating it.
    • Subtly invoked in the scenes after Yuri kills Simeon. He clearly wants to die but death seems to elude him.
  • Renegade Russian: More than one.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilised: Discussed, along with Full-Circle Revolution.
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Yuri: "I guess they [African militants] can't own up to what they usually are: a federation of worse oppressors than the last bunch of oppressors. Often, the most barbaric atrocities occur when both combatants proclaim themselves freedom-fighters."

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"I would tell you go to hell... but I think you're already there."

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  • Senseless Sacrifice: When Vitaly realizes that the guns Yuri is about to sell will shortly be used to massacre a village of unarmed refugees, he attempts to sabotage the sale by destroying the weapons, very likely knowing that he will be killed for doing so. Unfortunately, he is killed before he can destroy both truckloads of weapons, so the sale goes through anyway and the remaining weapons are used to carry out the slaughter.
  • Shoot the Dog: Late in the film, Yuri is forced to execute Simeon in order to prove his loyalty to Baptiste.
  • Significant Reference Date: December 25, 1991: the day the Soviet Union fell.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: This is a very cynical movie.
  • Spent Shells Shower: So much that the opening scene has Yuri walking in a deserted, war-torn African city where the ground is literally covered with bullet casings.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Yuri towards his wife, whom he falls in love with after seeing once. He even arranges their first meeting under the pretense of doing a photo shoot of her, just to have an excuse to talk to her.
  • Standard Snippet: The music that plays when recounting Yuri and Vitaly's upbringing in New York is the "Song of the Volga Boatmen", a well-known folk piece that's very commonly used to represent Russia in popular culture.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: A customs official cocks his submachine gun and points it at Yuri, ordering him to answer a question he's been asked.
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Yuri: Ah, the new MP5. Would you like a silencer for that?

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  • Technology Marches On: The computers in this film seem rather outdated, despite its being made in only 2005.
  • Tested on Humans: Baptiste Sr. guns down one of his own aides to test out Yuri's merchandise. Yuri is horrified... but quickly realized that was the wrong move, so covers for it by angrily exclaiming, "Now you have to buy! It's a used gun!" This also gave him an excuse to take the gun away (allegedly for cleaning and inspection, but really to get it out of Baptiste's hand). Fortunately, Baptiste finds this humourous.
  • Title Drop: The title is what Andre Baptiste says instead of "warlord" but he prefers it his way. You don't want to question him on that, but you've got to admit it sounds better than his "bath of blood."
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  • Villain Protagonist: Yuri.
  • Vodka Drunkenski: Yuri's uncle, an alcoholic Russian general.
  • War Is Hell: Those who suffer in war are rarely those who benefit and conflict need not be just. The special horror of feeding murder and destruction for monetary gain.
  • We Can Rule Together: Simeon makes an offer to partner up with Yuri at one point, but he rejects it.
  • What You Are in the Dark: How Valentine keeps his African partner from just slitting Yuri's throat and making him vanish as far as the rest of the world is concerned, after just missing out on a bust thanks to Yuri making the evidence disappear.
  • Why We're Bummed Communism Fell:
    • Played straight by Simeon Weisz, who believes that the fall of the Soviet Union heralds a complicated, chaotic era where it's difficult to determine what side to take, and that it can't last.
    • Inverted by Yuri, who's ecstatic that the Soviet Union fell not only because he could now loot military hardware in the Ukraine, but because he thinks things have gotten simpler in gun running rather than more complex - he now ships to everyone and every side, and that politics should be left out of it.
  1. The AK-47 was removed from service and replaced by the similar-but-improved AKM early in The Fifties