"There are over 550 million firearms in worldwide circulation. That's one firearm for every twelve people on the planet. The only question is... how do we arm the other eleven?"
Lord of War is a 2005 political crime thriller starring 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.
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.
Yuri tells Uncle Dimitri to flub his numbers so that instead of 40,000 AK-47s, he has 10,000 and thus is "severely depleted," needing to order more from the factory. Yuri says that this number is low for a battalion, which has only 500 riflemen, and so 10,000 assault rifles is a ridiculously high amount of guns. In addition, as a major general, Uncle Dimitri would be in command of a division, of which 10,000 AK-47s is a bit more understandable.
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 notes that doing so would mean no repeat business. Later another client almost does kill Yuri after Yuri rejects his price (because he wants to pay him in cocaine, not cash) but just shoots him in the side. Yuri wisely agrees 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 Jewish dietary laws, much to the annoyance of his Catholic wife.
Anatoly Orlov: I'm going to temple.
Irina Orlov: You're not going to temple! You go to temple more than the Rabbi!
Being Evil Sucks: Yuri has realized how much destruction he caused but can never repair it...
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 amoral and indifferent to the death he causes with his trade, but he is nowhere near as bad as Baptiste, who is an insane dictator who murders people on a whim, allows his cannibalistic son free reign and engages in bloody civil wars. 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'tveryeffective. Or affable,comparatively.
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 (in a country that he notes has astronomical rates of HIV infection),note Completely false for Liberia where, since the identification of HIV, the prevalence rate has never reached 2%. In fact, in 1995, when Yuri is in Liberia, only 23 people in the entire country had tested positive for the virus. Even if the regional reference was meant to indicate the entire Sub-Saharan Africa region, the "one in four" statistic is still grossly overestimated as these high rates only exist in a few Southern Africa countries. an encounter with a pack of hyenas and two gangsters who would have shot him if their AKs had not jammed (which he proceeds to give them his professional advice on how to fix so they won't do that.) 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, with armor-piercing bullets, as Jr. had only seen the first Rambo film). 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.
But Not Too Evil: See the subversion in Even Evil Has Standards. The in-character reason that Yuri never supplied Al Qaeda is that Osama was bouncing cheques, but the scriptwriters' reason was almost certainly to allow him to be amoral, but not too amoral for the audience.
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.
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 Are Bummed Communism Fell; he's positively thrilled that the Soviet Union collapsed, because it's great for his business, especially as he's got an uncle who's ex-Soviet Army with warehouses just full of arms...
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, and it's apparently played straight, the shots apparently being blocked and the mobster returning fire. 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. He does break the rules when he "detains" Yuri by handcuffing him and leaving him on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere for 24 hours.
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.
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.
Do Not Do This Cool Thing: For a film ostensibly excoriating the arms trade, there is an awful lot of Gun Porn to be found, and the protagonist is a cool, confident Karma Houdini who achieves enormous personal success in the field..
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 Villainy below).
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.
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 knocks Andre Baptiste Jr. out of the way of a charge to one of the weapon hauling trucks, and tosses a grenade in the back. He is promptly shot, and Yuri only gets half of the agreed price.
I'm a Humanitarian: André Baptiste Jr. is said to eat the hearts of his victims, because he thinks it gives him superhuman strength. The scary thing is that this kind of behavior is actually not that far-fetched from real African dictators.
In a film about the evil of arms-dealing, the producers paid real arms dealers to get the props, since it was cheaper that way. So, if you went to see this movie, with the above message, part of your money went to arms dealers in payment for real guns and tanks.
In the film, Yuri ruminates on how he sold millions of rounds of ammunition, but in the end a single bullet got him arrested (said bullet was in Vitaly's body after the latter died of a heart attack on their trip to Africa).
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. He loses his brother, his love, his child, and is disowned by his parents, but he doesn't really care - only that cash keeps flowing in.
Latino Is Brown: A fair-skinned Colombian drug lord pays with six kilos of cocaine instead of cash. He and Yuri also use a lot of Mexican slang for no apparent reason.
The Load: Vitaly becomes a major burden on Yuri after the latter got into drugs, but before then was helpful to Yuri and his activities. Later, when Vitaly kicks the drugs, he remains the load by developing a conscience, which leads to him getting shot to death trying to stop an arms deal that would lead to the deaths of thousands.
Man in White: Andre Baptiste, Sr. favors a pure white uniform, except on ceremonial occasions.
Misaimed Fandom: In-universe. Andre Baptiste Jr. asks Yuri to bring him Rambo's gun, specifically the M60 with armor-piercing bullets because he's only seen the first movie. First Blood is in fact a drama about a traumatized Vietnam vet who unleashes a small-scale war in an American town when the locals hassle him, and ends with Rambo crying into his former superior's arms about how he's lost all purpose in life and willingly turns himself in. Baptiste Jr. uses the M60 to mow down African civilians while laughing about it. Being a cannibalistic psychopath and son to a Liberian warlord, that he missed the point of the film shouldn't be surprising.
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".
Motivational Lie: At one point, Yuri's only possible way out of being arrested is to have his pilot try a dangerous 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.
Necessarily Evil: Yuri labels himself as such at the end of the film because he's sometimes a middleman supplying weapons to conflicts on the White House's request that the politicians can't be seen to get involved in themselves. He's let go from custody and exits the movie a free man with gun running the only thing left in his life.
Never Trust a Trailer: This somber drama, with some elements of dark humor, is definitely not the adrenaline-and-testosterone fueled "Guns & 'Splosions R Kewl" action romp full of Michael Bay moments - contrary to what its trailer blatantly suggests.
N.G.O. Superpower: Interpol, in the film, has much greater policing jurisdiction than it does in real life.
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.
Done rather explicitly in the case of Yuri and Andre Baptiste Sr. after they both have to bury their family member, with Yuri noting that they both see something of themselves in each other that they clearly don't like.
Orange/Blue Contrast: The interrogation scene with Jack Valentine is a particularly pronounced example of the trope.
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 ends up as incompetent, drug-addicted loser compared to his brother, and he knows it.
Put the "Laughter" in "Slaughter": During the weapons sale in Sierra Leone, Andre Baptiste Jr. is trying out the M60 from the first Rambo movie which Yuri finally brought him. He guns down civilians on the side of the road while laughing with glee.
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 it was made up.
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 the 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 its owner would not be happy if they really trashed his cargo plane.
Reliably Unreliable Guns: Yuri is nearly executed by a pair of thugs in Africa. One aims his AK-47 (sold to him by Yuri, naturally), pulls the trigger... nothing. Clears the jam, sticks it in his face again, pulls the trigger... nothing. Yuri points out that they'll do that sometimes and tries to fix the jam for him... the thug just hits him with the butt and knocks him out. Well, it was worth a shot, anyway...
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 sides proclaim themselves freedom-fighters."
Self-Inflicted Hell: Because of the things he's done, Yuri Orlov has lost his brother, had his wife and son walk out on him, and his parents disown him. As Agent Valentine says to him:
"I would tell you go to hell... but I think you're already there."
Senseless Sacrifice: When Vitaly realizes that the guns Yuri is about to sell will shortly be used to massacre a settlement 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.
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. Or in this case, Ukraine.
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.
Yuri: Ah, the new MP5. Would you like a silencer for that?
Sympathy for the Hero: Yuri grudgingly shows admiration for Valentine's integrity and seems to have some genuine sympathy for him at the end as Valentine is betrayed by the system.
Technology Marches On: The computers in this film seem rather outdated, despite its being made in only 2005. Which makes sense, as the film spans across the late 1980s and 1990s, with the ending occuring, according to Word of God, shortly before September 11, 2001.
Tempting Fate: Uncle Dmitri's last words are, "I am the luckiest man alive!"
Yuri's monologue does this.
"I wasn't worried. There's hardly any radar over most of Central Africa, and even fewer people to watch it." [cue Agent Valentine in a jet fighter on Yuri's tail]
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! I can't sell 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."
Villain Protagonist: Yuri is a gunrunner who sells weapons to anybody, including violent dictators and human rights violators. We're shown what a disaster his love life and family relationships are in such a way that you have to stop and feel sorry for him.
Subverted with the protagonist arms dealer Yuri Orlov. He doesn't instigate any wars, nor does he care about the outcome, he simply provides weapons to those who do, pointing out that he doesn't put a gun in anyone's hands and force them to shoot.
His main competitor Simeon Weisz is closer to a straight version of the trope, stating that he supplied guns to Iraq and Iran during their war because he "wanted both sides to lose."
War Is Hell: Those who suffer in war are rarely those who benefit and conflict need not be just. The special horror is feeding murder and destruction for monetary gain.
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.
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.