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      War Inc.
    Man o' war

    John Cusack stumbles through the wreckage of "War Inc.," a rarely funny, rarely on-target satire of the American military machine.


    War sometimes makes good people do bad things. Good people, like John Cusack and Marisa Tomei. Bad things, like "War Inc."

    Cusack (no doubt fresh from his high school reunion, where he probably had to kill some people) plays a ruthless sort of war-contractor/spy who is sent to the war-torn nation of "Turaqistan" on an assassination vacation. In a rare inspired touch, he drinks straight hot sauce from a shot glass when he has to make sure he's still alive.

    WAR INC.
    Directed by: Joshua Seftel.
    Written by: Mark Leyner, Jeremy Pikser, John Cusack.
    Cast: John Cusack, Joan Cusack, Marisa Tomei, Hilary Duff, Ben Kingsley, Dan Aykroyd, Ned Bellamy.
    Cinematography: Zoran Popovic.
    Edited by: Michael Berenbaum.

    Related links: Official site
    Along the way, he meets a barely working journalist, played by Marisa Tomei, and a barely competent singer, played by Hilary Duff. Together, they ... um ... I don't know. They just sort of bounce around. Hijinks occur. Explosions explode. Corporate logos are mocked. No particular plot ensues.

    By the end, a villain has been found and fought, one who blatantly dishonors the memory of Dr. Strangelove, a character from a vastly smarter and funnier movie.

    The script is crammed with about 1,000 gags that somebody thought were funny, about 11 of which are. When I saw the movie, although half a dozen people hastily walked out, about a dozen people were laughing, so I guess there's a modest audience for "War Inc." As for me, I laughed out loud exactly once, during a scene in which Cusack is driving a vehicle outside the green zone.

      War Inc.
    Voice on radio: "There should be a Mobil station on the right. Do you see it?"

    Cusack: "Yeah, I think so."

    You won't see the humor in this until you've seen the movie (because there's subtlety involved, for once), but trust me, it's the one moment of brilliance.

    It's surprising that the fairly impressive trio of Cusack, satirical novelist Mark Leyner, and co-writer Jeremy Pikser ("Bulworth") would create a film this clumsy. Equally surprising is how badly it's filmed. It's noticeable as soon as Cusack's character arrives in country and is handed a tube of "SPF 89" sunscreen. This only serves to call your attention to the fact that "Turaqistan" — which I'm going to go out on a limb and say represents the real-life nation of Iraq, you've probably heard of it — is cloudy all the time. The light is a constant, flat gray. Everything looks terrible and, more to the point, the location is obviously not the desert. It is, in fact, according to the Internet, Bulgaria.

    War Inc.  
    So the thing is, there's a problem when highly committed people make anti-war movies during a war, and the problem is this: They're prone to think they're going to be the ones who get to make the big frontal assault. Blow the lid off. Finally wake people up. Start the revolution. And the harder they try, the less it works.

    What we have in "War Inc." is a madcap comedy with people racing around and acting ridiculous — which is fine if it's 1955 and you're Lucille Ball, not so fine if it's the 21st century and the target you were aiming for is absurdism. "War Inc." just isn't funny, has no story, and doesn't make its point. The revolution is going to have to wait.

    JUNE 2, 2008

    Reader comments on War Inc.:

  • Excellent Movie with Depth, Hillarity and Charm   from MaryBeth, Oct 14, 2008
  • Comments War, Inc.   from Ollie Sullivan, Nov 6, 2008

  • Post a comment on "War Inc."