Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Following in the vein of the tongue in cheek cult classic ‘Grosse Point Blank’, John Cusack returns as basically the same character who is just as depressed in the satirical war comedy ‘War Inc.’ which is a toxic mix of extreme cleverness combined with extreme stupidity to create a film that is as wildly uneven as any film I’ve seen in recent memory.

It is the shocking near future and corporations control pretty everything having anything to do with the world economy including warfare, with the main corporation being the ubiquitous Tamerlane Corp. which provides everything from nuclear missiles to feminine hygiene products. To facilitate the interest of the company and thus the interests of the United States, the CEO of Tamerlane, a former U.S. Vice President (Dan Ackroyd), enlists the assistance of international hitman Brad Hauser (Cusack) who we first meet casually placing bullets in the skulls of a crew of old dudes at a frozen northern Canadian bar. Heaven only knows what a Canadian could do to warrant assassination. Maybe they were late on a LaBatt’s shipment or something. With his mission accomplished Hauser jumps in his Tamerlane crafted personal jet and talks to his only friend, the OnStar dude, who does what he can to council the troubled hot sauce guzzling man. Soon an urgent message from the former Vice President comes through alerting him there is man in the war torn country of Turaqistan who is building his own pipelines instead of allowing Tamerlane to build them and thus needs to be eliminated.

Once in the Tamerlane dominated Turaqistan where the Humvees have Golden Palace banners air brushed on them and the soldiers walk around looking like NASCAR drivers with all kinds of ads stitched on their uniforms, Hauser pretends to be the coordinator of a trade show which allows him to gain access to Omar Sherif (Lyubomir Neikov), the man he needs to terminate. To assist him in his task he has his contact

Marsha Dillon (Joan Cusack) pretending to be his assistant for this trade show but things get complicated when he meets the Anti-Tamerlane investigative reporter Natalie Helgulhuzen (Marisa Tomei) who he is instantly smitten with, and there is also the foul mouthed Turaqistani pop singer Yonika (Hillary Duff) who will be getting married during the trade show and who for whatever reason makes Hauser physically ill when he’s around her. These distractions compound with the distractions that Hauser already has to deal with which include his chronic depression, the fact that he had to kill his CIA handler Walken (Ben Kinglsey) which haunts him everyday, and the loss of his wife and child. The more Hauser learns the more he begins to question who he is, what he does and why he does what he does, though nothing can prepare him for the real truth that he is about to uncover.

Directed by Joshua Sheftel and co-written by Cusack himself, the first half of ‘War Inc.’ cuts with a blade so satirically sharp that it will make you bleed with laughter if you just get slightly too close to it’s sharp edges. In addition to the satirical elements that are placed in your face and are blatantly clubbing you over the head, there is so much other little clever stuff happening in the background that you would probably have to watch the film two or three times to catch it all… which I’m not gonna do. There are quite simply too many little nuggets of corporate skewering littered in this thing to mention and had the film maintained this singular focus, it might have been one for the ages. Performance wise John Cusack does that everyman easy going sad sack thing that he does to perfection, his sister Joan is like some kind of Comic Genius, Sir Ben Kingley will do just about anything for money and both Marisa Tomei and Hillary Duff are really good looking.

Somewhere along the line though, ‘War Inc.’ stopped trying to be another ‘Dr. Strangelove’ or ‘Wag the Dog’ which it was well on its way to becoming, and instead turned into a melodramatic, soap operatic, Die Hard action movie. I mean the bottom completely fell out of this thing. There’s a love story that really doesn’t work, a family drama that really doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense and then Cusack’s character transforms into Jean Claude Van Damme, only without all the muscles. It’s almost as if I went to the bathroom and the projectionist got his reels mixed up and put in a completely different movie, one that sucked hard. What the hell happened?

I’m really disappointed because the first half of this movie is just the kind of cutting edge, humorous, satirical and clever type of filmmaking that we really just don’t get too much of an opportunity to see anymore, while the second half became exactly what we see way too much of and would like to avoid if at all possible. Why y’all want to trick us like that? That’s so uncool.

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