War, Inc.

War, Inc.

Film review by: Witney Seibold




            Here is a film that acts like it’s funny, when it’s really not. It also acts like it has teeth, which it doesn’t. “War, Inc.” has some very powerful things to say about corporate involvement in the Iraq war, commercialism run amok, the careful practice of keeping reporters away from the battlefield, and even the unfair, over-sexualized treatment we Americans give some of our pop stars. It’s going to make damn sure you know it has those powerful things to say.


            Take the scene in which Tamerlane (the film’s Halliburton stand-in) presents a group of de-limbed ex-soldiers dancing on their new prosthetic legs. A PR lady (Joan Cusack, the funniest performer in the film) exclaims that “Tamerlane used the same technology that went into their stinger missiles that injured them to make the very legs they’re dancing on!” Subtle.


            John Cusack, bless him, does his best in the role of Brand Hauser, a stressed-out hitman (not unlike his role in “Grosse Pointe Blank”) who is assigned to assassinate a Middle-Eastern dignitary named (tee hee) Omar Sharif (Lyubomir Neikov). Hauser takes shots of hot sauce to relax, and has painful flashbacks to when his wife was killed, and to when his old boss (Ben Kingsley) bullied him.


            This new assignment takes him to Turaqistan (the film’s Iraq) where war is raging, and Tamerlane has been tapped to provide privatized soldiery, weapons, and rebuilding materials. Tamerlane is run by the ex-vice president (Cheney shoo-in Dan Aykroyd), and he has carefully constructed an Emerald City (the film’s Green Zone) in the midst of the battles to arrange PR meetings and Press conferences. As his cover, it is Hauser’s job to run Emerald City for a few days. It’s Hauser’s job to deflect tenacious reporters like Natalie Hegalhuzen (Marisa Tomei), juggle the various dignitaries floating his way (he is seen in meetings with amateur film producers, emissaries, etc.), and, most oddly, to organize the wedding of a local pop-starlet named Yonica Babyyeah (Hilary Duff, who’s been working on her abs) to a vain and callow gangsta wannabe name Ooq-Mi-Fay (Sergej Trifunovic). Is it me, or does that seem like way WAY too elaborate a cover for a CIA hitman?


            Oh, and did you see the joke in Ooq-Mi-Fay’s name? It’s Piglatin.


            Hauser, already having second thoughts about his job (he has conversations about it with his on-board directions computer played by, of all people Montel Williams), begins to fall in love with Natalie the reporter, and develops a kind of asexual regard for Yonica.


            The film has a really odd tone. It falls somewhere between the broad absurdist commercial satire of “Idiocracy” and the overstuffed self-important insanity of “Southland Tales.” It can’t seem to decide if it wants to be obvious and tasteless (which is fine, and can be funny), or stinging and hypercritical. Sadly, it doesn’t hit either mark very hard. This is a pity, too, since the film is, in all honesty, very topical. It wanted to Catch 22, and only Caught about 5. Mix into this baffling atonality some over-the-top performances (Kingsely’s “W” accent is just painful), a surprisingly earnest love story, an obvious plot twist, and Duff’s distractingly lithe midsection, and you have a perplexing, over-blended bouillabaisse of a movie.


            Perhaps screenwriters Cusack, Mark Leyner and Jeremy Pikser, and documentary director Joshua Seftel should have read Mad Magazine or Catch-22, but not both.

Published in: on June 25, 2008 at 6:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

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