September 26, 2005 12:00 PM

Nicolas Cage, Ethan Hawke

DRAMA

CRITIC’S CHOICE

War, war, war: Arms dealer Yuri Orlov (Cage) sells guns to despots who make war on local rebels and neighboring countries. He also sells guns to the rebels and the bordering nations. For good measure, he’s at war with himself: Orlov knows that selling weapons is wrong, but how can he stop when all that money feels so right?

Lord of War, sharply written and directed by Andrew Niccol (Gattaca), has a lot on its outraged mind. It gets a trifle preachy at times, but mostly it’s a stylish, informative, sharp satire about the world arms market. Along the way to achieving his version of the American dream, Ukrainian-born Yuri conscripts his drifter brother (Jared Leto), woos a sexy model (Bridget Moynahan) and tries to keep a step ahead of a conscientious Interpol agent (Hawke).

As Yuri, Cage is all ferocious energy and cunning, while Hawke is effective as his frustrated opponent. Lord of War is that rarest of pictures, one that’s actually about something and mad as hell. (R)

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