War, Inc.

2008, Movie, R, 106 mins


The trouble with this satirical take US involvement in Iraq, penned by Mark Leyner, John Cusack and Jeremy Pikser, is that the real thing is equally absurd and only marginally less funny.

Freelance assassin Brand Hauser (Cusack, playing a variation on his character in GROSSE POINTE BLANK) is the disillusioned husk of world-class killing machine, getting by on his still-formidable ability skills and hiding behind a practiced line of ironic banter. Contracted by the former Vice President of the United States and current head of international conglomerate Tamerlane (Dan Aykroyd) to assassinate oil baron Omar Sharif (Lyubomir Neikov), Hauser dives headfirst into the chaos left by America's "first fully outsourced war" – outsourced to Tamerlane, of course. Sharif has been lured to Emerald City, the capitol of newly liberated Turaqistan, to attend a glitzy trade show called Expo Turaqistan: Brand USA. Under cover as the show's coordinator, Hauser must both kill Sharif and babysit for pop star Yonica Babyyeah (Hillary Duff) – the Britney Spears of Central Asia – whose marriage to Ook-Mi-Fay Taqnufmini (Sergej Trifunovic), scion of a collaborationist clan paid off in political power, will serve as the show's bang-up finale. Complicating matters are Hauser's fanatical, high-strung, Tamerlane-supplied assistant, Marsha Dillon (Joan Cusack); left-wing journalist Natalie Hegalhuzen (Marisa Tomei), who knows a farcical photo-op when she sees one and is determined to find out what's really going on; and ongoing firefights between hopped-up Tamerlane security forces and the Turaqi insurgents who control everything except the heavily fortified Emerald City.

Indifferently directed by Joshua Seftel, WAR, INC., uses dark humor to expose the venality of armed intervention in the affairs of sovereign nations for the sake of advancing US business interests –Tamerlane wants Sharif dead because he intends to develop his own country's oil reserves, and its corporate finger is in every aspect of Turaqistan's post-war reconstruction, from commercial redevelopment to supplying prostheses for the war wounded. But like the string of documentaries and dramatic features about the American occupation of Iraq produced since the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime, it's preaching to the converted. And giving Hauser an 11th-hour pass is a serious misstep: Sentimentality is something dark comedies can't afford, especially when they come out of the gate dripping take-no-prisoners fury. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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