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The Warlord

Directed by

Quentin Tarantino

Produced by

Stacey Sher
Pilar Savone

Screenplay by

Quentin Tarantino


Gary Oldman
Jennifer Lawrence
Sigourney Weaver
Dane DeHaan
Kevin Spacey
Elle Fanning
Oscar Isaac
Christopher Walken
Quentin Tarantino
Tom Wilkinson


Robert Richardson

Edited by

Fred Raskin


The Weinstein Company

Distributed by

The Weinstein Company
Sony Pictures Releasing

Release date(s)

20th July 2017

Running time

146 minutes


United States


The Warlord is a 2017 neo-noir action crime thriller film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, produced by Stacey Sher and Pilar Savone and edited by Fred Raskin. It stars Gary Oldman as Peter Royce, a hit-man who is hired to commit several killings across New York, which brings him into conflict with the film's main antagonist, Meredith Irons (Jennifer Lawrence), an equally dangerous mob boss. The film stars a supporting cast of Sigourney Weaver, Dane DeHaan, Kevin Spacey, Elle Fanning, Oscar Isaac, Christopher Walken, Quentin Tarantino and Tom Wilkinson.

Tarantino envisioned the film to be a battle between the Oldman, Lawrence and Spacey's characters, similar to that which took place in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, one of Tarantino's all-time favourite films. By December 2016, Tarantino sent his final draft of the script to The Weinstein Company. Casting began in February 2017, with Emma Watson, Bonnie Wright and Amanda Seyfried being considered for the role of the main antagonist, before Lawrence was cast. Principal photography took place from late February to June 2012 entirely in New York.

The Warlord was released in cinemas on 20th July 2017 in the United States, and received majorly positive reviews from critics and audiences - praise went to the film's script, villain, pacing, the performances of Oldman, Spacey, Weaver and especially Lawrence, and the screenplay. It was a box office success, grossing twice its original budget, and won several awards and nominations, with Lawrence receiving an Academy Award nomination for Best Villain for her performance.


Peter Royce enters the Cudgel and Cuffs bar at night, where he meets with Commissioner Mikhaela Irons, a police officer whom he addresses as Lady Limo. Mikhaela explains that she is unofficially hiring him to remove a few targets that appear unobtainable for the police to arrest. Peter appears to be extremely reluctant to work with a police officer considering the fact that the police have heavily damaged his life already, Mikhaela convinces him to do so on the promise that she won't give extremely incriminating evidence to the police that will end his freedom - it is explained through dialogue that he is in fact a police officer, but certain circumstances led to him leaving. Peter agrees, on the condition that they never meet again after he has finished the job. A flashback sequence reveals that Peter's parents were both drug dealers, until the police arrested them. Idolising the police until his adulthood, Peter joined when he left college but after seeing the corruption of the police he left and became a hit man.

His first target is an increasingly powerful drug baron named Charlie, who has made his trade in enterprising drugs to young people. Peter investigates his target and learns that Charlie has been dealing drugs with other police officers and even lawyers, which is why he can't be arrested without incriminating such people in his dealings. Peter breaks into Charlie's luxury apartment, where he downloads all of his files and contacts on to a memory stick, which he then keeps for himself. Charlie arrives home as he is leaving and Peter pulls a gun on him immediately. Charlie tries to call the police, but Peter shoots his phone, scarring his hand. Throughout the conversation that follows it is established that Charlie is a delinquent-turned-dealer who only does what he does for the purpose of toying with the police, which Peter understands. As they speak, Charlie reveals he has activated a secret switch that alerts the police, but Peter has already disconnected every electronic device in the house. Seeing that his time has come, Charlie pulls a gun and shoots Peter, hitting a gas tank and igniting the house. In the chaos, Charlie escapes.

Shedding his burning jacket, Peter hijacks a car and chases after him. In the ensuing motor pursuit, Peter shoots the wheels of Charlie's car and causes it to plunge into the river. Charlie swims to safety, but world-class assassin James Swann appears and kills him, but not before Peter recognises him. Peter pursues James, but Peter has brought three bodyguards who both shoot Peter into cover as James escapes. As he does, Peter, not believing in half-measures, kills the bodyguards and dumps them in the river next to Charlie's corpse. The entire incident is watched by Meredith Irons, who has watched the whole incident through cameras built into James' glasses. She sends a girl named Sidney after Peter, and Sidney spies on him throughout his journey to his next target. Sidney approaches Peter, and her narcissistic behaviour leads Peter to realise that someone is watching him, and that this has been purposeful - someone wants him to know that they are watching him.

A flashback sequence features a young girl returning from Caltech, where she is visited by Michael Carlton (Called MC by most people), and the man explains that he worked alongside her father and brothers in their gang - he delivers a detailed story that explains how her father angered a mob boss, and ignited a gang war between the two gangs across ten years. This gang war eventually came to a savage end two weeks previously when her father betrayed every single member of his opponent's gang to the police, where they were all victimised and killed in prison. The leader, referred to only as Master Spectre, escaped the police and lured the gang into a trap - he trapped them in a hotel, where he hired several mercenaries to open fire on them. Her brothers were killed in the ensuing gunfight, but her father was wounded. MC supported him as far as a car to escape, before Master Spectre cornered them and shot his father in the stomach and he died screaming. The only way MC survived was by faking his own death in an explosion. He warns the girl that Master Spectre is hunting after them. The girl does not speak, but she is visibly horrified by what she has been told.

In the present, Peter visits his next target - Joseph Dwight Stamford, but he does not learn exactly why Mikhaela wants her dead. He shadows him for several days and even befriends him, before learning from him that he was once a mob boss, one of the most powerful in the city, until he was forced into hiding because his entire gang was massacred by another mob boss. Peter deduces that he is meeting with another party that night and decides to shadow him. Joseph meets with Meredith Irons, whom Peter doesn't recognise. In the ensuing conversation, Meredith establishes that she is offering Joseph a place in her gang on the condition that he turn over all of the information that Joseph has on Mikhaela. Peter realises that Meredith Irons is Mikhaela's daughter, and Joseph, after contemplating for a long time, decides to sign the agreement. Once he does, Meredith shocks him by explaining that she had offered every single member of his gang the exact same deal, and each and every one of them had fallen for it. Two waiters restrain Joseph, and Meredith explains that the last mob boss who had his gang crippled by Meredith, she had made suffer for being an opponent to her - she intends to do the same to him. Peter intervenes, pulling a gun, and Meredith uses Joseph as a human shield. Peter mercy-kills Joseph and pursues Meredith, but not before he is stabbed in the back by James Swann.

Revealing to have been wearing body armour, Peter battles with James, and the brawl is interrupted when Meredith's gang surrounds them. The police arrives simultaneously and the gangsters are surrounded on all sides. Meredith tries to pull a gun on them, but Peter knocks her out. Meredith's gang are imprisoned and Meredith herself is placed in solitary confinement, where she begins to cleverly seduce the man in the opposing cell. Between interrogations she continuously causes the man to be infatuated with her, and when she is finally brought before Mikhaela, Meredith subtly manipulates her mother, insulting her parenting and her loyalty to her husband, causing Mikhaela to punch Meredith. As a result, Meredith is detained for police brutality and Peter approaches Meredith instead, asking her what she was doing with Joseph. Meredith explains that she has employed the exact same strategy with her opponents every single time she meets one - she cripples their established order, and then manipulates them into becoming one of her own, before torturing and killing them. The resulting reputation that she gains will only cause her next opponent to be wary or confident or skilled enough to face her. Peter deduces from this information that Meredith is an extreme thrill seeker.

Peter confronts Mikhaela and demands to know why she was so tempted to strike her, when by reputation she had never been known to do so before. A flashback returns to the young girl, revealed to be a younger Meredith, who has become a full-blown vigilante, guilty of massive property damage and drunk driving, as well as starting one bar brawl after another - in each situation, Meredith had manipulated another party into either betting against her or picking a fight with her, meaning she was knowledgeable of her actions. The police never caught her because Meredith had threatened the families of everyone present with the preservation of her anonymity. At twenty-three, Meredith's reputation had earned her many followers and she has formed her own gang with this form of blackmailing - Meredith's fearsome intelligence is being used for entirely the wrong reasons. Sick and tired of her daughter's vigilantism, Mikhaela disowns her and Meredith runs away from home, finally waging a war on Master Spectre, eventually organising a public execution to avenge her father and brothers. However, his son, revealed to be James, saw the whole thing, and pitted several other gangs against Meredith.

Meredith continues to seduce the man in the other cell into feigning having a seizure, and when a prison guard arrives to try and investigate, the man knocks him out and steals the keys. He frees Meredith, who then breaks his neck and escapes, instigating a massive riot in the police station and freeing her subordinates. They escape in the chaos, but not before James corners her. Meredith proves incapable of besting him in physical combat, and he flies into a rage over her murder of his father. Meredith takes several savage blows of his fists and feet, before breaking his kneecap and pushing him into the path of a passing car, but he survives. Mikhaela orders Peter to hunt after her, but Peter refuses to do it for her because he is disgusted at what she has done to her own daughter in disowning her. He starts a manhunt for her, and Meredith visits the home of Jimmie, the bartender from the Cudgel and Cuffs, and demands that he hide her there while she uses the bar as a base to mount her revenge on her mother and Peter.

A flashback shows an alcoholic Peter recovering from a brutal hangover, after a terrible outing on the night shift in his precinct where the incompetence, ignorance and outright negligence of his colleagues and superiors led to a series of disasters (Named among them are several murders, violent robberies, cases of arson and a prison riot that went out of control). Peter gets into a bar fight with a man he is playing cards with, and after one fight too many he decides that he will leave the police and make his own money doing his own work. He becomes a hit man, and during one particular incident with the man he fought in the bar, he takes a ferocious beating from the man, even being stabbed in the side with a broken bottle, Peter endures and belligerently defeats his opponent. He has earned the nickname 'Lord Fist' for his violent and aggressive nature. In the present, Jimmie tries to call the police on Meredith, but he is intercepted and Meredith dismantles the phone lines, before imprisoning Jimmie. Deciding to set a trap for Peter, she calls him on his phone and dares him to come and find her.

Peter decides to go out on his own and hunt her down for the sake of getting rid of her, but before he can even get ready, Mikhaela knocks him out and goes after Meredith, wanting to amend for her mistakes. Meredith lays a trap for Peter, but Mikhaela falls into it first - she is lured into the house, where a tripwire puts causes a house in that same street to explode - there are similar tripwires placed around the house, each one conveying a wireless signal to an individual explosive nearby. Thinking that it is Peter, Meredith dares her intruder to try and find her. She also dispatches several of her gangsters to fire on the intruder to make the game more entertaining. James arrives, recovering slightly from his injuries and, to spite the girl who injured him, begins locating the tripwires and cutting them, unbeknown to Meredith who becomes anxious that she hasn't heard any more explosions. Mikhaela corners her daughter and pulls a gun on her, and Meredith goads her to pull the trigger, but not before James appears and holds a knife to her throat. Though it momentarily appears like she is outmatched, Meredith pulls James into the aim of the gun just as Mikhaela fires. James is shot in the back, but is wearing body armour, and Meredith strangles her mother. Peter arrives and kicks Meredith away from Mikhaela. Meredith sets off a smoke grenade and flees, but not before Mikhaela retrieves her gun and shoots her daughter in the leg, leaving her with a flesh wound.

James pursues Meredith through the streets, shadowing her until she arrives at Grand Central Station, where he moves to confront her. Mikhaela also follows her daughter to the station and brings with her several other police officers, but an aggressive James starts picking them off due to his intent to take down Meredith himself. In the ensuing chaos, Meredith poses as a civilian, but James follows her into one of the trains. Since both of them are injured and in no shape to fight one another, Meredith offers a game of Russian Roulette, which James declines in the knowledge that Meredith is clever enough to tip the balance in her favour even in such a simple game as that. Peter tracks the train and boards it himself, where he approaches the two of them. Meredith prevents Peter from killing her by reminding him of the similarities between the two of them - namely, they both hate the authority of the police since it comes to nothing in the end and they are just as bad as each other. Peter is distracted and Meredith attacks him, first turning one of James' knives on him. Meredith holds a knife to Peter's throat, but Mikhaela shoots into the train, causing further chaos and separating the three of them. Meredith steals Peter's gun and shoots James dead, before pursuing her mother.

In the ensuing gunfight, several people are injured and Peter tries to follow Meredith. She runs to the Statue of Liberty and climbs into the torch, where she corners her mother, but Peter arrives too and pulls a gun on her. A tense, three-way standoff begins, with Meredith aiming at Peter, Peter aiming at Meredith and Mikhaela aiming at Meredith. At first, it appears Meredith is out of options, before she notices that Peter is carrying one of the guns supplied by her gang, so she turns and aims at Mikhaela. Peter fires, but the botched bullets in his stolen gun cause the weapon to explode, jarring him, while Meredith shoots Mikhaela in the heart. She turns to aim at Peter, but has run out of bullets. As the police arrive, Meredith engages in a violent struggle with Peter, but loses her footing and almost falls, but Peter saves her, deciding that she should live out the rest of her life in an asylum with freaks like herself. Meredith tries to goad him, but he knocks her out and leaves her alongside her mother's body, before leaving. Meredith is dragged into solitary confinement in an otherwise completely empty ward.

Mikhaela's life is honoured by her boss, Steinbeck, and Peter watches the eulogy for her funeral from the Cudgel and Cuffs, where it all began. As is custom for when he finishes a job, he drains a bottle of vodka before smiling to himself and receiving a message from Steinbeck, who requires his service. The film ends in a freeze frame as he answers 'What can I do for you, Commander?'


  • Gary Oldman as Peter Royce, the film's protagonist, commonly referred to as Lord Fist for his formidable brutality in the acts that he carries out, essentially the most wanted man in New York. He was once a police officer until a series of corrupt acts and miscalculations by the police in his precinct caused him to lose faith in the authority of cops and detectives. Extremely determined and seemingly irrevocable in his decisions, Peter Royce is also an alcoholic who always downs a whole bottle of vodka after a successful mission. Tarantino referred to him as "The anti-hero of all anti-heroes. He doesn't give a crap for the police, cos the police make too many mistakes for his satisfaction. He's too good at what he does to care about anything else, because what he's good at is the only thing that works for him".
  • Jennifer Lawrence as Meredith Irons, the film's main antagonist, commonly referred to as Miss Stone for her absolute ruthlessness and complete lack of compassion. Meredith is vastly intelligent which makes her a frightening person when her genius is paired with her ruthlessness, and atop all of this Meredith owns the largest spy network in all of New York - Tarantino classed Meredith as "The Morairty, the Keyser Soze, the face behind the mask. She doesn't care what happens to the people whom she tells to do something, so long as they go ahead and do it".
    • Chloe Grace Moretz as a young Meredith Irons.
  • Sigourney Weaver as Commissioner Mikhaela Irons, Meredith Irons's mother and 'the richest cop in the city' - for this she is referred to as Lady Limo. Mikhaela is estranged from her daughter because her absolute dedication to her job caused psychological transformations in Meredith, incidentally turning her into 'Miss Stone'. Mikhaela is a no-nonsense, hard-working and deadly serious police officer who is willing to use black tactics (Such as hiring Peter Royce to eliminate targets that would root out her daughter). Tarantino described her as "Not necessarily a corrupt cop, but rather a flawed cop. Corrupt means they don't give a damn about the laws, they just want to wave their guns around and make everyone bend their knees to them. Mikhaela...she just uses rocks to break through paper walls, trying to find the one paper wall where her daughter is hiding behind".
  • Kevin Spacey as James Swann, an internationally-wanted assassin in hiding in Harlem, called Mr. Spectre on account of the fact that he has the inexplicable ability to access anywhere at any time. His preferred weapon is a pair of 8-inch switchblades, which he is never caught without. James is a merciless man and will carry out his assassinations, which he performs for two thousand dollars, without speaking a word or breaking a sweat. It is learned that he used to be a circus performer as a child, where he performed a spinning knife trick. Tarantino described his character as "The one and only, ultimate badass of New York. He's hiding in New York...but he's not hiding, he just can't go anywhere else, so he makes do. He adapts. He'll slit your throat in a heartbeat and just walk away, because he knows how to hide. He's the Phantom".
  • Dane DeHaan as Charlie, a blooming drug baron who operates in Brooklyn and specialises in supplying teenagers with harmless but addictive drugs for the sole purpose of angering the police. Charlie wants to control the whole of Brooklyn's substance supply so that he can live luxuriously, but Tarantino confirms that he is a child in a man's body - a spoiled kid bathing in dollar bills, not a care in the world...until the world smacks him in the face. He is the first target that Peter Royce is employed to eliminate.
  • Elle Fanning as Sidney, the protegee of Meredith Irons. Exceptionally bright but exceedingly arrogant, Sidney is found entertaining by Meredith, and is possibly the one and only person whom Meredith would care about. Sidney dislikes having to dirty her own hands, which is her only weakness in her mentor's eyes, but she does enjoy seeing and playing mind games with other people, which is what makes her a protegee. Elle Fanning claimed that she hugely enjoyed playing the character because of how she got to let loose in the role she played for a change.
  • Oscar Isaac as Joseph Dwight Stamford, a former mob boss who was deposed by Meredith after a vicious gang war and is trying to hide in the Grand Central Station as a burger stall owner. He is the second target that Peter Royce is hired to eliminate, primarily because he is a potential resurgent enemy for the police and he has too many followers now to be ignored any longer.
  • Christopher Walken as Commander Steinbeck, a police captain who appears in only two scenes in the whole film - he is a very high-ranking police officer who proves to be negligent of the majority of crimes that happen in New York. Christopher Walken compared his role as an advancement of his one-scene role in Pulp Fiction.
  • Quentin Tarantino as Jimmie, a bartender at the Cudgel and Cuffs bar.
  • Tom Wilkinson as Mitchell Phillip Anthony Sebastian Carlton, called 'MC', a former police captain who once served alongside Meredith's father and brothers, and delivers news about Meredith's birthright to her after the death of the men in her family. Wilkinson was only given one protracted scene in the film.