A tongue-in-cheek romp through the international arms business, writer-director Andrew Niccol's pitch-black satire charts the rise and fall and rise of Ukrainian-born, Brooklyn-raised gunrunner Yuri Orlov (Nicolas Cage). The film's tone is set by a bravura opening sequence that follows a single bullet from a factory conveyer belt to its resting place in a child's skull, and by Cage's flawlessly sardonic voice-over. As Niccol's camera pans across a patch of earth thick with spent shell casings, Yuri ponders the statistic that there's a gun for every 12 men, women and children alive today. The only question, he muses, is how to arm the other 11. Ba-dum-dum. Yuri's parents fled Ukraine and relocated to New York City's Brighton Beach, a neighborhood choked with Soviet immigrants who dubbed it "Little Odessa," when Yuri and his younger brother, Vitaly (Jared Leto), were children; they went into the restaurant business because people always need to eat. Yuri stumbled onto his calling in 1982, when he wandered into a competing eatery and narrowly missed getting caught in the crossfire between rival gangsters. Since people will always want to kill each other, there will always be a market for guns and ammo. Yuri starts small, peddling Glocks to local tough guys, and quickly realizes that for all the bloodshed on America's mean streets, the real money is in all-out war. So he brings Vitaly into the business and goes global, buddying up to dictators, drug lords and military opportunists, keeping tabs on who's feuding with whom the way bond traders monitor corporate alliances: Crime waits for no man. He also makes two implacable enemies in genteel, old-school weapons broker Simeon Weisz (Ian Holm) and doggedly upright ATF officer Valentine (Ethan Hawke), the one incorruptible man in a dirty world of payoffs and payback. The pressure eventually gets to Vitaly, who develops a debilitating cocaine habit. But the implacable Yuri glides through killing fields from Colombia to the Balkans before finding his own personal hell in Liberia, where despot Andre Baptiste (Eamonn Walker) — whose impeccable diction and drawing-room manners lie lightly over a seething pool of bloody madness — terrorizes his starving, disease-riddled subjects and lavishing the spoils of international-aid missions on his inner circle. Bleakly funny and bitterly cynical, Niccol's film hums with the same righteous anger that drove David O. Russell's blistering THREE KINGS (1999), managing to wring dark humor from the nesting box of lies and self-delusion that make Yuri's world go round.
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- Released: 2005
- Rating: R
- Review: A tongue-in-cheek romp through the international arms business, writer-director Andrew Niccol's pitch-black satire charts the rise and fall and rise of Ukrainian-born, Brooklyn-raised gunrunner Yuri Orlov (Nicolas Cage). The film's tone is set by a bravura… (more)