A documentary which borders on the darkly comic, The Notorious Mr. Bout charts the rise and fall of an arms dealer. However, this film from Tony Gerber and Maxim Pozdorovkindoesn’t doesn’t merely portray Viktor Bout as a ruthless merchant of death, but instead gives the impression that he’s a man who just saw a business opportunity which was easy to exploit.
A fictionalised version of Bout’s tale reached the screen in Andrew Niccol’s 2005 film Lord Of War, which starred Nicolas Cage. That was a pretty straight forward and Hollywodised version of the story, but what happened in real-life is even more fascinating. This is made even more so from the fact that a a lot of the footage in Gerber and Pozdorovkin’s film is from Bout’s own home movies (he was something of an amateur filmmaker).
Bout was successful for a long time, but what really brought him down (scoring him a 25 year prison sentence) was that he started selling arms to the Taliban (amongst many, many others) following 9/11. If the world had stayed the same, or Bout had changed his ways (or been less greedy), then there’s a chance that he’d still be a free man.
The Notorious Mr. Bout is a film which raises a lot of moral issues. Many assume that the men behind the illegal arms trade are often monsters, but Viktor Bout comes across as a relatively normal man, who just happened to be in the arms business. Is he any different from a million other businessmen who are involved in the sale of tobacco or alcohol? The answer is probably yes, but The Notorious Mr. Bout will probably put you on the fence, or at least make you realise that there are many shades of grey out there.