Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Recent DVD Sighting: Lord of War Is a Sack of Soggy Pretensions

I saw Lord of War last night from among a number of unviewed DVDs that've recently come across my desk, and all I can say, if I were one to say only one thing, is what was thinking? That lead actor Nicholas Cage finally become a good actor in a film that made narrative sense? Please schedule me for a padded room and straight jacket.What I found it to be pretentious and shallow, preachy in very obvious ways, with a "surprise" ending that was telegraphed from several city blocks away. The bits of dialogue between Orloff and his pursuer (portrayed by Ethan Hawke) about the relative merits of each other's chosen roles in life was half-baked and unfelt, lacking any real conviction in or twist upon middle brow cliches. The movie attempts in several ways to be a morality play , oozing with irony,but the pitch here is so determinedly at the bottom end of an emotional range that it's nearly flat lined. No one seemed to know how to direct the actors with a cheaply sanctimonious script, and the actors themselves appear to lack interest to do any free lance scene chewing.

Paddy Chayefsky, prolix screenwriter behind Network and Hospital, set an as yet unsurpassed standard on making socially-conscious movies that want to force the audience to dwell a little on the invisible undertakings involved in keeping them safe and secure. It comes down to a frank exchange of cliches and alarmist platitudes, but Chayefsky had a genius for infusing them with new phrases, coinages, and could contrive a flaming morass of cynicism that was particularly compelling despite what depth he failed to achieve. The movies were quoted, the issues made the op ed pages and the chat around the coffee maker.

Lord of War lacks all that, and depends on a slick video-game surface while Nicolas Cage's sad puppy dog eyes gaze upon his gunning character's fatal transactions with a detachment that is supposed to make us think of a man straddling both heaven and hell, pondering which is worse. It doesn't work, though, and it's really another excuse for another movie gallery of Cage's set-mannerisms. At least he wasn't pretending to be Elvis this time out. He is has his suffering saint visage on, the look of smacked dog lounging on the grave of his beloved , late master. Cage might as well be laying on this film.