Monday, October 20, 2008

War, Inc.: Grade A

War, Inc. (2008)
John Cusack, Hilary Duff, Marisa Tomei, Joan Cusack, Dan Ackroyd, Ben Kingsley. Director Joshua Seftel.

In the “future,” a huge military contractor, a thinly disguised Halliburton, occupies a middle eastern country, Turaqistan (get it?). The CEO, played very vice-presidentially by Ackroyd, hires John Cusack, a professional assassin, to take out a certain oil minister. The assassin’s cover is as the head of the corporation’s enormous trade show, organized by his assistant, sister Joan. Meanwhile, Tomei is a dogged investigative reporter who smells scandal. Kingsley has a small but funny part as some kind of evil bad guy, and Duff has an equally wild part as a bizarre sex-crazed belly dancer. It is all just madcap fun as those hilarious car bombs blow up all around.

The dialog is funny and the satire is often sharp, but this is not laugh-a-minute. Serious issues are raised about violence, torture, the commercialization of war, political corruption, American imperialism, and so on. But nobody wants to see a moralizing anti-war movie, so those serious moments are short and sandwiched between thick slices of silly nonsense, with plenty of crude jokes for the youngsters, sophisticated film allusions, and subtle wordplay. You might take it as a throwaway comedy and you wouldn’t be far wrong, except for the very serious political themes just under the veneer of the satire. Even though it is not a grade A comedy nor a grade A thriller, the artistic value of what this movie attempts to do makes it a must-see.

Both Cusacks are great; can’t get enough of them. John is a good comic actor with just the right tone of pseudo-seriousness. Tomei is fascinating no matter what kind of a role. The politically aware audience will detect a left-leaning bias, but the genuinely funny comedy should overcome political annoyance.

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