‘Lord of War’ kicks off with a sensational opening sequence that follows the journey of a bullet from inception on a factory shop floor to its final destination: the brain of a child caught in the crossfire of war. It’s a jarring, heart-stopping three minutes and, unfortunately, it’s the best moment of Andrew Niccol’s audacious but flawed film. A twisted take on the American dream, it follows Ukrainian immigrant Uri Orlov’s (Nicolas Cage) rise through the arms industry. Against the backdrop of the Cold War and its messy aftermath, he sells his soul for a box of AK47s and wheels and deal his way to the top of the armaments tree, always turning a blind eye to the destruction precipitated by his products. A smart, cynical satire, writer-director Niccol’s script crackles and pops with snappy one-liners, although several hokey plot devices threaten to ruin the slick stew. Uri’s romance with supermodel Ava Fontaine (a wooden Bridget Moynahan) never rings true, while his literal brother-in-arms, Vitaly (Jared Leto) may as well have ‘victim’ tattooed on his head. That said, several confrontations with Ethan Hawke’s frustrated Interpol agent and Eamonn Walker’s psychotic warlord are never less than engrossing, and Cage’s central performance as the arms dealer who develops a heart of gold ranks with the best work of his career. The result is a schizophrenic journey that merges expensive action pic with angry anti-war sentiment in impressive fashion, making for that rarest of beasts: an intelligent and thought-provoking blockbuster.