War, Inc is gonzo moviemaking with a bleeding heart. A satirical farce that wants to be Dr Strangelove for the age of terrorism, it is a zany, nihilistic free-for-all that goes soft.
Giving in to sentiment is an impulse to which Stanley Kubrick, the director of Dr Strangelove, whose influence permeates War, Inc, would never have succumbed. A prolonged battle scene set to the Blue Danube waltz is pure Kubrick, but it is executed by the director Joshua Seftel without the same icy sense of the absurd. Like much else in the movie, it seems merely derivative.
What bracing misanthropy War, Inc is able to conjure in its early scenes is sabotaged by the presence of the film’s prime mover, John Cusack, an actor who even when playing the ultimate cynic can’t keep from coming across as a misguided nice guy on the verge of seeing the light. Cusack, who also wrote the screenplay with Mark Leyner and Jeremy Pikser and is one of the film’s several producers, stars as Hauser, a samurai-style hit man dispatched to the Middle East in the near future on an assassination mission.
Playing a classic lone gunman and kung fu master with a deadly glint in his eyes while Morricone-style cowboy music twangs in the background, Cusack still looks and sounds like a softy. His destination is the Emerald City (read the Green Zone) in the fictional Turaqistan (read Iraq), a country occupied by Tamerlane (read Halliburton), a corporation run by an unnamed former vice president of the US (Dan Aykroyd, doing a dead-on parody of Dick Cheney).
Snarling out of one corner of his mouth while sitting on a toilet, the vice president boasts that the continuing conflict between Tamerlane and insurgent forces is the first war ever outsourced to private enterprise. As a trade show begins, a chorus line of women with prosthetic legs dances. Their prostheses are Tamerlane products.
DIRECTED BY:JOSHUA SEFTEL
STARRING:JOHN CUSACK (HAUSER), HILARY DUFF (YONICA BABYYEAH), MARISA TOMEI (NATALIE HEGALHUZEN), JOAN CUSACK (MARSHA DILLON), BEN KINGSLEY (WALKEN/THE VICEROY), LUBOMIR NEIKOV (OMAR SHARIF), DAN AYKROYD (MR VICE PRESIDENT)
RUNNING TIME: 106 MINUTES
TAIWAN RELEASE: TODAY
His aide, Marsha Dillon (Joan Cusack), is an enraged sourpuss who suggests an exponentially more disagreeable Mary Matalin. Joan Cusack’s harshly funny portrayal, and the performances of Aykroyd and of Ben Kingsley as Walken, an evil puppetmaster and CIA honcho, are the movie’s strongest because their characters don’t have souls. This being a satire, why should they?
Hauser’s assignment is to kill Omar Sharif (Lubomir Neikov), an upstart Middle Eastern oil minister who wants to build his own pipeline through Turaqistan, thwarting Tamerlane’s intention to corner the country’s natural resources. Outside the Emerald City, where Hauser occasionally ventures, Turaqistan appears to have been already reduced to rubble. But the battle rages on, and chaos reigns.
The cover story for Hauser’s visit is his job description as producer of the Brand USA Trade Show, whose centerpiece will be the wedding of Yonica Babyyeah (Hilary Duff), the Britney Spears of Central Asia. Duff breaks out of her everygirl persona to play this spoiled, squirming kohl-eyed vamp, who growls I Want to Blow You Up with every innuendo intact and travels with a posse of ersatz gangsters. Inside this predatory tramp, however, beats the heart of a lost little girl.
Hauser, the tough guy who swigs shots of hot sauce without shedding a tear, falls in love with Natalie Hegalhuzen (Marisa Tomei), a liberal journalist who shows up on the scene. When she is kidnapped and threatened with beheading after venturing outside the Emerald City, Hauser gets to play the hero.