2005 character study
Plot: Yuri Orlov didn't have the easiest childhood growing up with Russian (well, one of those pieces of the Soviet Union) immigrants in the big city. As just a little fella, he starts selling weapons to the mob in his town, and uses the experience to move into a very successful career as a gun-runner with his troubled brother Vitaly. He also manages to slide into a marriage with Ava Fontaine, his boyhood crush and hot model. Keeping details about his career secret from his family and evading pesky federal agents is a lot to juggle though.
I didn't really know anything about this movie going in, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed its playfulness. Here's another movie that makes me wonder if I actually do like narration in movies. I've always labeled that a pet peeve. Maybe the narrator just has to be French or Nicolas Cage. Or both, I guess. The narration in this definitely adds flavor to the drama though. Cage's character is one of those who does completely immoral things--the obvious gun-running, lying to his wife--but he's got this charm or flair about him that still makes him likable. It's a solid performance with no real room for him to work his hammy elbows. Jared Leto fits as his brother and foil, and Ethan Hawke, a kind of sickly-looking Ethan Hawke, is good as a somewhat cliched idealistic federal agent. This film has a different style that gives it a unique color and keeps you interested even when there's not much going on. There's also a little dark humor in there, especially in the interactions between Orlov and Liberian president Andre Baptiste, one of those giving us the origin of the film's title in a cute little recurring joke. Eamonn Walker is great as Baptiste, really capturing the funny that's in most of your violent dictators. The not-always-predictable tale of Orlov is consistently entertaining and concludes in a way that I thought was really satisfying. Oh, one more thing: I really dug the opening credits, a really neat series of shots (no pun intended) from the perspective of a bullet. This (and that) hammers a message home. Cool stuff.