War, Inc. (2008)

Rated: R for violence, language and brief sexual material.
Length: 107 minutes
Grade: DFDD=D-
Budget: $5 million, sadly that wasn’t low enough to keep this film from being made.
Box Office: $2 million ($0.5 U.S., $0.7 Intl., $0.9 DVD)

Written by: Mark Leyner (1st movie), Jeremy Pikser (Bulworth), and John Cusack (High Fidelity, Grosse Point Blank)
Directed by: Joshua Seftel (1st movie)
Starring: John Cusack, Hilary Duff, Marisa Tomei, Joan Cusack, Dan Aykroyd, and Ben Kingsley.

In a future where wars are explicitly controlled by corporations, Brand Hauser is a contract assassin tasked with running a trade show in a recently conquered nation, overseeing a pop star’s marriage, and killing a local businessman to facilitate the aims of the evil military-industrial complex. Unfortunately, Hauser finds himself falling in love with a liberal reporter who threatens to expose everything.

Entertainment Value: D
I love John Cusack. I love Joan Cusack. I usually enjoy Marisa Tomei. And I’m particularly fond of Ben Kinglsey. But this was awful. I keep hoping someone is going to make another Grosse Point Blank, but I guess it’s not going to happen. This is totally unveiled political commentary ladled sloppily atop a plot that is simply crazy without any meaningful dialogue to keep it all held together.

Superficial Content: F
Drugs/Alcohol D, Sex/Nudity D, Violence F, Language F, Illegality F
It’s a movie about war, assassination, political evil, out-of-control pop stars, terrorists, and megalomaniacal secret world leaders. What do you think the rating should be. There isn’t any nudity, per se, but there’s enough of everything else to bother anyone who’s botherable.

Significant Content: D War is bad. Haliburton is evil. Dick Cheney is evil. America is the puppet of industrial concerns. On the good side, however, honesty is important, and having to do morally awful things will incapacitate you psychologically in the long run if it doesn’t destroy you. Even if you’re an assassin, you can eventually change through the power of love. Cue Huey Lewis.

Artistic/Thought Value: D
Aside from all the other problems, this movie suffered the death of a hundred interesting ideas all sloppily thrown together without any real regard for the overall effect. Ad space on tanks. Godstar. Popeye’s. Hero images for the viceroy. It’s all somewhat clever, but a hundred little clevernesses don’t make a good foundation for an entire movie without a structure.

Discussion Questions:
~“Business is the uniquely human response to a moral or cosmic crisis.” What do you think of this statement?
~“The problem is you’re a moralist. War is the improvement of investment climates by other means.” What do you think of this statement?
~Cusack tells Tomei that it must be nice for her to be able to be totally honest, but she responds that it costs her influence and friends. Have you ever been tempted to lie to keep a position or people in your life? How is honesty liberating?
~Why does Hauser have his psychological difficulties?
~Is this movie articulating any significant political commentary, or is it just expressing conspiratorial and venomous frustration?
Overall Grade: D-
I expect better from John Cusack and Ben Kingsley, much better.

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