This is the kind of off-the-wall, daring, polarizing, love it or hate it political satire we don't see much anymore. John Cusack's game attempt to bring it back makes War, Inc. all worthwhile for adventurous, open minded filmgoers.
The time is the near-future and the desert country of Turaquistan has been recently "acquired" by the American corporation now run by a former U.S. Vice-President (Dan Aykroyd). In order to monopolize the country's assets, a hitman named Hauser (John Cusack), who enjoys drinking straight shots of hot sauce, is hired to derail a Middle Eastern oil minister named Omar Sharif (!), who has plans to run a pipeline through the country that would create huge problems for the new "owners." In order to pull this off, Hauser poses as a PR man who arranges the high profile wedding of Central Asian pop-star Yonica Babyyeah (Hilary Duff). The plot thickens when Hauser is given an assistant (Joan Cusack), who knows where all the bodies are buried, as well as the arrival of a hot, liberal-leaning investigative reporter Natalie Hegalhuzen (Marisa Tomei) on the trail of all the turmoil. In addition to the complications caused by all these new relationships, Hauser's CIA past starts haunting him making his attempts to assassinate the oil magnate all that more daunting. Got it?
As co-writer and co-producer, Cusack clearly has a lot invested in War, Inc., a labor of love that uses hard-edged, sometimes inaccessible satire to make his points about the sad state of American foreign policy. Casting himself as the hitman, he is comfortably once again in Grosse Pointe Blank territory, playing a killer-for-hire for laughs. Cusack's comedies vary widely, but this one is much closer in spirit to Grosse Pointe than conventional stuff like America's Sweethearts and Must Love Dogs. You feel he must have done those latter comedies for a paycheck in order to finance a few more War, Incs. Here he has surrounded himself with a first-rate group of actors who seem comfortable falling flat on their face in order to mine for laughs. Dan Aykroyd (ironically, Cusack's co-star in Grosse Pointe Blank) has just the right acerbic tone as a Dick Cheney-like former V.P. still out to peddle American influence around the world. Marisa Tomei is sexy and funny in a smallish role as the reporter, while Hilary Duff is clearly stretching and almost unrecognizable as the international pop star. Ben Kingsley as John Cusack's old boss is well cast, and it's great to see sister Joan Cusack working with her brother on a passion project like this.
Without question this type of satirical picture is the hardest thing to do. It's the kind of thing Billy Wilder with One, Two, Three or Stanley Kubrick with Dr. Strangelove could pull off seemingly effortlessly. War, Inc is nowhere close to that league but as almost a lost form of cinema you have to admire director Joshua Seftel's efforts here to make it work. He does more often than not, particularly in some of the more dialogue-heavy scenes in which the actors get to damn inhibition and let loose. On the down side is the deliberate bleak color palette, which comes off too dark and dreary at times and seems to work against the comedy. At its heart , War, Inc. aims to provoke while it entertains and not every kind of audience is going to be receptive, but for those who like their movies shaken and stirred with a touch of irony, it's worth a look.
Hollywood.com rated this film 3 stars.