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Lord Of War (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Lionsgate is bringing an underseen gem in the Nicholas Cage/Ethan Hawke/Jared Leto arms drama/thriller to 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray. While their updates of catalog titles seems random sometime at others headscratching, Lord of War feels like a its somewhere in the middle of that. The film landed in the mid of maybe Nic Cage’s last great run of films back in the first half of the 00s (Matchstick Men – National Treasure – Lord of War – The Weather Man). Lionsgate was a studio trying to break out from just being Jigsaw and Madea movies and were trying their best at something prestige with a movie like this. Its one that I think people should definitely revisit or check out for the first time as it surprised me back in 2005. You can grab yourself this glorious new 4K release on March 19th using the Amazon linkage below. 

Film 

The 20-year arms dealing career of Queens, N.Y., outcast Yuri Orlov (Nicolas Cage) serves as a window onto the end of the Cold War and the emergence of worldwide terrorism. He finds himself reassuring his more ethically challenged younger brother, Vitaly (Jared Leto), while adeptly sidestepping the pursuit of federal agent Jack Lawrence (Ethan Hawke). The globetrotting arms dealer also pursues the woman of his dreams, supermodel Ava Fontaine (Bridget Moynahan).

Andrew Niccol caught my eye, and many other genre geeks’, when he dropped Gattaca on us back in the 1990s. While I’m not sure he’s reached those heights again, I’m always interested in what he’s doing. Lord of War is probably the film of his I would place right under Gattaca in the filmography. With a 9 film spread, this one’s only similarity to his other works is that it contains regular collaborator Ethan Hawke. Normally he works things with a sci-fi angle. Lord of War is straight up about the arms trade business.

Funny that it comes between the films in terms of when it came out, but Lord of War feels like some sort of “in-between” of something like Brian De Palma’s Scarface and Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street (Guess we COULD talk Goodfellas too). Its about a man who does what he can to climb the ranks of an ugly business practice and then finds himself more in danger the more lucrative he gets. In terms of filmmaking, its more pedestrian compared to those others mentioned, but its not without trying (Plus, those other were made by absolute masters of the craft). Niccol’s story is an intriguing look inside this business while also hitting on some historic footnotes from time to time.

The film is a blend of dramatics and pulp and features a nice cast that is able to handle it. Nicholas Cage drives the film easily and most of the film is having fun watching him bounce off everyone they give him to play with. This character feels like a cross between his roles in 8mm and Matchstick Men. Ethan Hawke almost doesn’t show up enough as he really digs into the “cop on the trail” character and relishes in every moment he can spar with Cage. Jared Leto plays a role that you almost wonder if it was far from home. He’s good here and you can see an admiration for Cage as both a character and a performer.

Lord of War was a film that felt like a nice little surprise back when it came out and one that seemed to be a film that Lionsgate was really riding higher on and probably was having awards aspirations for. Its not on that level, but definitely is some top level adult entertainment and feels like it was well liked by those that did see it. It was in the middle of a good run that followed up with a string a movies that led to Nic Cage’s DTV marathan of role-taking, but here he was at his final stand of being at his most prestigious.

Video 

Disclaimer: Screen captures used in the review are taken from the Blu-ray disc, not the 4K UHD disc.

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: Lord of War was shot on film so its 4K transfer is natural. The image here looks much more full and rich now in this UHD release. There’s a strong sense of blue through a lot of it with use of filter heavily. It also contains a more flush, warm look in desert sequences. Details are strong and the image is naturally crisp, retaining some solid grain in the picture.

Depth: Spacing is improved here as the depth of field feels more separation. Movement is more confident now with both the characters and the camera. No motion distortions occur.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and natural really giving a dark look to moments, but also the picture manages to feel naturally bright as well. No crushing witnessed as details come through quite visible and strong no matter how dark the palette leans.

Color Reproduction: Colors are pretty in both their natural and more vibrant looks in the image. Reds, blues, green and other can stand out as well as explosions, pieces of art and such really popping.  Soil and skies look rather entrenching as well.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are noticeable more full and flush in this image and have a look reflective of the filter being used in a scene. Facial features and textures are discernible from any given and reasonable distance.

Noise/Artifacts: N/A

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics: Lord of War not only enhances its video quality, but the audio now steps up for an Atmos upgrade. The track feels very loose and free with a well balanced mix. While the action or loud moments of using the guns pack a punch, the quieter moments in the film I found to be really impressive in a very natural way. Foley effects on clothing, ambiance and vocals come to a nice head in a way that feels incredibly lifelike and natural. Its a more than solid experience for the film.

Height: Gunfire, planes and other natural overhead sounds show up when need be but without any real big frequency.

Low Frequency Extension: Explosions, gunfire, car doors slamming, glass shattering and more have a nice bump from the subwoofer.

Surround Sound Presentation: Some terrific work here in realizing all environments and really giving good attention to the travel of any and all bullets. Each channel does get unique sounds and contributes to the rolling motions on screen. The front speakers do get utilized much more but the others do get plenty to do.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp. Cage’s narration is louder, and its some much more deeper notes.

Extras 

Lord of War comes with the Blu-ray edition and a digital copy of the film.

Audio Commentary

  • With Writer/Director Andrew Niccol

The Making Of Lord Of War (SD, 20:28)

Making A Killing: Inside The International Arms Trade (SD, 15:14)

Deleted Scenes (SD, 6:34)

Summary 

Lord of War is a terrific thriller about arms trading with some nice performance turns from the 3 above title leads. Lionsgate upgrades it to a solid 4k Ultra-HD Blu-ray release. There is a noticeable improvement in both the audio and video for this release. The prior extras are enough to suffice (And pretty well rounded at that). With a solid price, if this is a film you like, its easily worth the nice little upgrade available.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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