To put it simply, "Lord of War" is "GoodFellas" with the Mafia replaced by gunrunning. Yuri Orlov (not to be confused with physicist Yuri Orlov, whose amazing life story would make an excellent film) and his family flee the USSR in 1980 by pretending to be Jewish and end up in New York's Little Odessa. Yuri becomes a U.N. peacekeeper, but soon figures out he can make good money by selling weapons illegally to foreign fighters. Before long, the business, which he runs with his brother Vitaly, is booming, and when the Cold War ends there are so many guns on the black market Yuri can't sell them fast enough. In Russia, where Yuri has an "in" with the apathetic army, it is a gunrunner's paradise; he sells everything from helicopters to armored personnel carriers to entire tank divisions. It's a sick, deadly all-must-go sale. Eventually Yuri's misdeeds catch up to him, ripping apart his family.
The script is an episodic, postcard layout of the gunrunner life. We see Yuri make his way up the food chain, narrowly avoid arrest in wily ways and blithely witness the carnage his product aids. Yuri may ramble on and on in voice-over, but he never really lets us inside. He is a shallow man in a dent-deep story that doesn't have much to say. Along the way Yuri gets paid in cocaine and his brother, without preamble, becomes a raving addict. He's cut from the team and put in rehab (which never quite works). Yuri falls instantly in love with a Miss World winner named Ava Cordova. He fakes his way into her heart by renting out an entire resort hotel and wooing her with his money. They get together, marry, and have a kid. Yuri is given an archvillain, Interpol agent Valentine, who seems to always be nipping at Yuri's heels. We're supposed to believe that Ava never knew he dealt in guns, and that the only way for the good guys to bust him is by catching him in the act, when clearly they could have checked his finances (which he has no excuse for) or had someone testify against him.
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