Directed by: Joshua Seftel | 107 minutes | action, comedy, thriller | Actors: John Cusack, Hilary Duff, Marisa Tomei, Joan Cusack, Dan Aykroyd, Sergej Trifunovic, Ned Bellamy, John McLaughlin, Montel Williams, Ben Kingsley, Lyubomir Neikov, Nikolay Stanoev, George Zlatarev, Bashar Rahal, Velislav Pavlov, Zahary Baharov, Doug Dearth, Ben Cross, Mark Roper, Andrey Slabakov, Joost Scholte, Velizar Binev, Davorka Tovilo, James Graves, Troy Rowland, Rachel O’Meara, Nick Harvey, Itai Diakov, Stanimir Stamatov, Georgi Gatzov, Mark Johnson, Krassimir Simeonov, Velizar Peev, Shirly Brener, Katerina Grableva, Sergio Buenrostro, Alex Brown, Attia Hosni Attia, Ivo Kehayov, Teodor Tsolov, Bill Cusack
A satirical film about a hit man with a conscience starring John Cusack and supporting roles for Dan Aykroyd and Joan Cusack? This immediately brings to mind the bizarre and pleasant “Grosse Point Blank”. Sadly, “War, Inc.” does not reach the level of the earlier film, but it has become a somewhat chaotic shambles, part anti-war film, part political satire, but not convincing enough on both fronts to be really appealing. John Cusack does his best as cynical CIA agent Brand Hauser, co-wrote the screenplay and also acted as a producer, but despite his obvious talents, he doesn’t know how to make chocolate out of all the dangling elements.
A satirical view and criticism of business as a driver of the war industry, the situation in Iraq, the questionable role of a former vice president (Aykroyd) – obviously based on Dick Cheney – and the influence of all this on people are all for piece of interesting building blocks for a film, but the sum of said parts unfortunately does not lead to a good film. The supporting roles are not all equally well filled. Cusack’s sister Joan, who has previously played his assistant, is having a good time, but Dan Aykroyd has a minor supporting role as vice president that doesn’t do justice to his comedic skills. Ben Kingsley can do little in a role as Hauser’s boss and the question arises why an actor of his caliber is even interested in such an insignificant role. Most gnashing of teeth, however, will be generated by Hilary Duff, who plays pop star Yonica Babyyeah in two modes: furious or indignant. She uses a kind of Russian accent (misunderstood attempt at joke?) And annoying mannerisms, so she hardly manages to arouse sympathy. The names of the characters, such as Hegalhuzen, Babyyeah, Ooq-Mi-Fay Taqnufmini and Omar Sharif – yes, really – may be funny, but at least they don’t come across that way. Perhaps the comparison to the fresh and absurdist “Grosse Point Blank” is an unfair one, but as a sort of unofficial sequel, you should expect more from “War, Inc”.
It is not Cusack, nor is it the always engaging Marisa Tomei as journalist Nathalie Hegalhuzen, they clearly have chemistry together. It’s the jokes that usually don’t work and the absurdity that is just too unrealistic to be credible. A requirement of satire in films is not only that it is recognizable in itself, but also that it is recognizable within the context in which it is placed. If it gets too out of step with reality, it misses the mark. That said, it doesn’t mean everything has failed: on the contrary, there are some sharp observations and some strong (visual) jokes, which are certainly good for an appreciative grin. And so “War, Inc” contains a handful of good scenes in a sea of missed opportunities. Too bad, because there could have been so much more in it.