Directed by Joshua Seftel. Starring John Cusack, Joan Cusack, Marisa Tomei, Hilary Duff, Ben Kingsley, Dan Aykroyd, Ned Bellamy. (2008, R, 107 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., June 13, 2008
Any film that features a character, as War, Inc. does, whose pig-Latinized name translates to "fuck you" may be either terribly smart or awfully stupid but certainly, terminally aware of how clever it is. That can be grating in such a well-intentioned misfire as War, Inc., which posits an all-too-believable near-future in which the United States of America has been completely overtaken by the military-industrial complex. War, Inc. is a black-ops satire crossbred from the cine-genes of Dr. Strangelove on holiday in Brazil and weaned on Wag the Dog and Medium Cool. But War, Inc. is neither all that interesting nor all that cool. That sounds like an impossibility when discussing a film that, without naming names, lampoons everyone, from unhinged steroidal fuckups-for-hire Blackwater USA to unhinged VP Dick Cheney (via Aykroyd), and throws paunchy pundit John McLaughlin into the mix for, um, no apparent reason whatsoever, but, hey, War, Inc. is nothing if not hellish. John Cusack, who co-wrote the screenplay with Mark Leyner and Jeremy Pikser (Bulworth), plays Brand Hauser, an ex-CIA assassin with an addiction to hot sauce and a streak of comic nihilism so bleak it might have been shorn from Anton Chigurh's hairdo. Tasked to deep-six the oil minister of the fictional country Turaqistan – the country appears to be at war with Duck Soup's anarcho-state Sylvania, or maybe that's just me – Hauser runs afoul of the greater good in the form of a leggy, bullshit-proof indie newshound, spectacularly played by Tomei, who, let's face it, is always spectacular. Once-upon-a-Ghandi Kingsley shows up as a CIA spookmaster with Wizard of Oz overtones, and pop-tart Duff straddles everything in sight as Eastern Euro hawttie Yonica Babyyeah, but absolutely nothing gels enough to create anything more biting than Duff's incessant gnawing of her own lower lip. This is broad satire spun completely out of control, overloaded with obvious gags and cannonades of yuks where quivers of sleeking wit ought to be. In that regard, it's not unlike Richard Kelly's recent Southland Tales, another recent political satire that suffered from bloating of the pretential nodes and expired before securing only the briefest of theatrical releases. John Cusack, as ever, is engaging to watch, but why anyone, especially him, would ever throw away a perfectly good white boy in such a blunt-edged bit of future-imperfect spoofery as this is beyond me.