Supporting Characters: 5 Stars
Perhaps the most engaging character in this film is Yuri's brother Vitaly. Unlike Yuri, Vitaly is a man of emotional depth and conscience. He withdraws from Yuri's gruesome trade early on, turning to drugs and other unhealthy addictions because he's unable to shed his humanity as easily as Yuri does. He can't seem to stomach the fact that he and Yuri are profiting off the killing of innocent people, and ultimately gives his own life in an attempt to stop a particularly gruesome slaughter. Unfortunately, Vitaly comes across as weak and unstable for most of the film. He isn't able to stop his brother's twisted business deals or even save himself, but his selfless actions make him a far larger hero than anyone else in this film.
Lord of War also features one other heroic male lead, Interpol Detective Jack Valentine, who works tirelessly to expose Yuri's illegal operations. Jack is the sort of law enforcement officer who always does the right thing and can't be bought off by bribes. But at the end of the day, Jack is no more effective in taking Yuri down than Vitaly is. Despite these two uniquely charming and committed male leads, Lord of War isn't the sort of film to let the good guys win.
Room for Improvement:
Gender Roles - Women
Gender Roles - Men
Self-Esteem and Body Image
Language and Sexual Content
Gender Roles - Women: 1 Star
Ava Fontaine is the perfect trophy wife. She's a beautiful woman with a glamorous job as an international model, and easily swayed by money and a lavish lifestyle. She knows that Yuri's activities aren't exactly above board but she asks no questions about his work, preferring to enjoy the luxurious lifestyle he affords her in quiet ignorance. In time it becomes more and more difficult for Ava to maintain this detached presence in Yuri's life - and she eventually does develop some resolve and substance. But it's far too late and far too little to make her much of a dynamic or engaging character.
Gender Roles - Men: 1 Star
Yuri is a terrible example of a man and a terrible example of a human being. He quickly develops into a callous arms dealer, with no indication that he suffers any sort of guilt or empathy when his weapons are used to murder innocent people. He places money, power and ambition above everything else - including his parents, his brother, his wife and his child. To be fair, Yuri does suffer more towards the end of the film. But this stems more from the fact that his tightly knit enterprise in unraveling than any sort of epiphany over the decisions he's made or the lives he's destroyed. He continues to justify his role in the arms trade by pointing out the actions of world superpowers or clinging to the idea that if it wasn't him, someone else would do it. Lord of War never sets out to turn Yuri into any sort of a hero, but at the same time, the film does celebrate his unlikely rise to power and his constant evasion of those who seek to bring him down. The film sends a powerful message regarding the grotesque nature of the global arms trade, and does so by immortalizing the sort of character that no one, man or woman, ought to emulate or admire.
Self-Esteem and Body Image: 1 Star
Ava is little more than a pretty face for most of the film, but when she does finally open up, we get an intriguing glimpse of a woman whose identity and sense of self-esteem are hopelessly intertwined with her appearance. Her looks have begun to fade, her prospects of becoming an actress have failed, and she seems to be searching for a more steadfast purpose in life. While it is both rare and exciting to see a maturing model coming to these conclusions, she isn't given enough lines or screen time to take advantage of this sudden transformation. For the most part she remains Yuri's prize, and to a smaller extent, his humanity. She's written into the story as a stunning symbol of Yuri's success, and towards the end, of his downfall.
Plot: 2 Stars
Ava is only a small part of a rather ugly story. She tolerates Yuri's criminal behavior for far too long, and has only a brief opportunity to try to change him into a better man. Had she been a stronger person, her weak attempt to redeem him might have been a bit more convincing. But Ava is never portrayed as much more than as accessory to Yuri - someone who might have been traded in for a more accommodating wife had she continued to be an obstacle. The film could have made Ava just a bit larger presence if she had actually turned Yuri in to the authorities, rather than inadvertently leading them to his stockpile of weapons. Such a quiet act of rebellion might have even turned her into something of a heroic figure, rather than the weak and uninspiring character she is.
Character Development: 2 Stars
Lord of War surprises audiences by transforming Ava from a materialistic model without much personality or drive into someone with a conscience - whose sense of morality is stronger than her love of luxury or even her husband. She immediately understands the significance of what Yuri does, and why she can't forgive, condone or tolerate it. She makes a necessary stand against him and who he is, even if it doesn't amount to much in the grand scheme of things.
It's a bit unfortunate, however, that Ava's arc also transforms her from a self-made woman with a career and connections into someone who is insecure and dependent on her husband's mysterious source of wealth. Her youth and beauty gave her a striking sense of power in the opening scenes, but it quickly evaporates the moment she meets Yuri and falls into the role of a tamed and doting wife.
Love: 1 Star
Lord of War gives us a rather pitiful depiction of romantic love. It relies on the familiar stereotype that beautiful women are easily won over by compliments and flashy things. And that men are first and foremost sexual, aggressive beings, driven by a passion to possess and control women without much concern for the person inside. The love story is mostly shallow and meaningless, and if anything good comes of Yuri and Ava's relationship, it's that their fragile connection isn't strong enough to survive reality. Their marriage was built on lies and superficiality and easily crumbles the moment the truth comes between them.
Language and Sexual Content: 1 Star
Lord of War uses sex simply as a means of portraying Yuri's power and success. He consistently evades the law, maintains dangerous connections with ruthless warlords, and lives a promiscuous lifestyle that contributes to the overall sensationalism of Yuri's disturbing persona. At one point he makes a thin and unconvincing comment about how he continues to make love to his wife as if she were the only one. But throughout the entirety of the film, he doesn't take his wife's needs or desires into consideration. The only bright spot in this film's portrayal of male-dominated sex is that it does make a rather powerful reference to the AIDS epidemic in Africa. Lord of War leaves us with a grim reminder that even something that should be a source of comfort and pleasure for a war-ravaged people, disease has made into something both frightening and cruel.
Yuri is a Ukranian-born immigrant with few prospects in America. Until he makes his first weapon sale to a local criminal. From there, Yuri makes his way into the global arms trade, selling assault rifles and military equipment to brutal dictators around the world. Yuri's success in the arms trade ultimately lands him the woman of his dreams and a life of luxury that he never imagined. But it's only a matter of time before things start to unravel - and only a question of whether morality or law enforcement will catch up with him first.
Kelly is a labor law