Claimed to be the world’s most notorious arms dealer, Viktor Bout has been painted as a merchant of death in books and a ruthless gangster in a film adaptation of his ascent in the criminal the title of the Lord of War.

Directed by Andrew Niccol and starring Nicholas Cage as Bout’s fictional double Yuri Orlov, Lord of War tells a slightly different story to the one filmmakers Tony Gerber and Maxim Pozdorovkin (Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer) tell in their documentary The Notorious Mr Bout.

Although in most portrayals Bout is imagined as the villain who fuels wars and conflicts across the globe, Pozdorovkin and Gerber’s documentary takes a different approach. It recounts Bout’s success and subsequent downfall from his point of view, trying to understand the motivation and the truth about the man everyone calls the merchant of death.

…The Notorious Mr Bout slowly follows Bout’s life from the early 90s after the collapse of the USSR…

The film was screened as part of the 13th East End Film Festival, which was also its European premiere. Combining footage taken by Viktor Bout himself or his relations, and interviews of his associates and family, The Notorious Mr Bout slowly follows Bout’s life from the early 90s after the collapse of the USSR and the many political and social changes that took place through to his trial in the US. Unlike in other representations, here we get to see the difficulties he constantly faces in his business, the disagreements with associates and the effect of his deals and subsequent imprisonment have on his wife and children. There are no attempts to dismiss the nature of his business or his involvement in the supply of arms for a number of international conflicts. However, what the film does shed a light on is the background story of Bout’s image as the penultimate gangster arms dealer. The result of media attention and additional fictionalisation, this reputation turns out to be quite different from the truth of the common businessman, as they say in Russia, that the film paints.

As part of its attempt to paint a different image of Viktor Bout The Notorious Mr Bout draws on various viewpoints and personal documentary footage. Thus, it constructs a well-balanced account of its protagonist’s life’s story, collecting different viewpoints of his actions and their consequences.



Film Review: The Notorious Mr Bout
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