Have you ever left a movie feeling confused, awestruck and possibly a little bit violated? If so, then you are already on your way to knowing what it is like to experience director Josh Seftel’s oddly toned, overly quirky yet somewhat charming film War Inc.
The hyper-satirical film stars John Cusack as a deadly assassin that is hired by a large corporation to eliminate a head of state in the fictional country of Turaqistan. A likely story, I know, if only that were all. The fun part comes during the opening credits, when some leading text tells us that in this parallel universe of sorts, the wars of the world are now privately contracted events, where countries hire private companies to carry out their invasions, occupations and even their rebuilding efforts. For the purposes of this story, the private company is run by a former US Vice President played by Dan Aykroyd.
The hard-lined, right wing ex-VP hires Cusack’s troubled hitman to run a Trade Show in the “newly liberated” Turaqistan that will culminate with the high-profile wedding of a Middle Eastern pop star named Yonica Babyyeah (Hilary Duff), whose father just so happens to be his target for assassination. And as long as he can dodge/seduce a sexy, whip-smart left wing reporter (Marissa Tomei), he will score himself a nice payday at the hands of the man.
If the film’s plot sounds half as ridiculous as a pop star named Yonica Babyyeah, that’s because it is. In fact, I can’t recall seeing a film that exists in such a ridiculous, bombastic version of reality in a long, long time. The last time a film was this silly, I was about 10-years old, obliviously enjoying the hell out of a wacky movie called Toys by director Barry Levinson that starred Robin Williams and Joan Cusack. Go figure that it would be Joan and brother John (who both appear in War Inc.) that would be present during the next most ridiculous cinematic experience of my life.
And while I knew going into the film that it was going to be ridiculous and, for lack of a better term, hyper-political, I did at least expect it to be funny. We are talking about a film that actively flaunted a scene in which Hilary Duff, as Yonica Babyyeah, sings a song called “I Want to Blow You… Up”. What about that doesn’t scream comedy? As well, I have long belonged to the school of thought that says that John Cusack has wonderful comedic timing. In War Inc., Cusack brings his patented charm for the first act, then lays down the flatness in acts two and three.
In fact, what starts out as a silly, over-the-top film turns into a silly, sad, muddled wannabe political satire that runs out of gas. Its like interacting with a normally entertaining senile relative — they are fun at first, but after too long, the situation becomes very sad and depressing. In that way, War Inc. goes from funny to questionably coherent to utterly dismissible, all inside of it’s 107 min. runtime. Had it not been for some slick marketing and the thought of Hilary Duff stuffing a scorpion down the front of her pants, I probably would have let this one pass by. And judging by the fact that the end product wasn’t quite as smart or funny as I had hoped, that probably wouldn’t have been such a bad thing.