**/**** Image A Sound A+ Extras B
starring Nicolas Cage, Jared Leto, Bridget Moynahan, Ethan Hawke
written and directed by Andrew Niccol
by Walter Chaw At times the film that Paul Brickman's brilliant screenplay for Deal of the Century promised, Aussie futurist Andrew Niccol crafts with Lord of War a sometimes transcendent, sometimes finger-wagging fable about a ridiculously successful gunrunner, Yuri (Nicolas Cage), prowling the hot spots of the Third World like a vampire in trenchcoat and shades. (I'm not convinced it wasn't the effect Niccol was going for, what with the obvious connection between spreading pestilence and feeding on death--and, of course, what with Cage's best role arguably being the quasi-vampire in Vampire's Kiss.) Without much of a narrative, even subplots concerning Yuri's mad, druggie brother Vitaly (Jared Leto) and model wife Ava (Bridget Moynahan) seem like way-stations along a dotted line. Too often, the picture lives and dies on its ability to keep the pace fluid--but just that need for momentum suggests something amiss at the heart of the piece, a certain surface tension that would pop should the rock-star protagonist we envy ever collide against the satire of the kind of colossal moral vacuity required of his vocation. It's the embedded problem of what Hitchcock observed as a character we like because he does his job well: what if that job is essentially reprehensible and, moreover, what if the ultimate desire of the film is that we experience righteous repugnance?