John Cusack’s in-spirit follow up to Grosse Pointe Blank is no where near as effective as that film, and while there are some winning moments, the film fails to work as a whole.
Brand Hauser is a contract killer for the U.S. and finds himself working for Tamerlane on a political assassination job in Turaqistan (not a real country for those counting) in a world that is now run by corporations and greed. Sent to rub out a competing C.E.O., Hauser is undercover as a convention show runner that will also be closing its ceremonies with the wedding of pop star Yonica Babyyeah (Hilary Duff). While working towards his mark, Hauser also encounters a reporter, Natalie Hegalhuzen (Maris Tomei), who he begins to bond with over his stay. Natalie is trying to figure out what is really going on in this country, especially with this mysterious boss The Viceroy, telling everyone what to do from an undisclosed location through monitors around town.
The films works on a couple of levels, with some of the absurd humor working on some levels, but to often the jokes fall flat, are inappropriate, miss their marks, and awkwardly lose the pictures tone throughout. The film did make me laugh out loud on a number of occasions, but just as often left me shaking my head in disappointment and asking myself ‘what?’ The action in the picture that is brief is solid, and we could have definitely used more of that, but the films absurd jokes begin to sink into the plot as well and by the end it is all just a bit ridiculous. Other bits don’t really work all that well either, Hauser’s hot sauce, his assistants yelling, and the viceroy’s changing face gag wear off quickly; and the overall message of corporate takeover was better conveyed in Southland Tales if you ask me. The films budget is also not as grand as the picture would like to be, and the “cheapness” of it all is a bit distracting from time to time. The messages the film is trying to send is definitely noble and kind of scary possible, but this film couldn’t strike the right chord when it came to effectively executing the satire.
The acting in the film is also unfortunately nothing to write home about as well. Hilary Duff does a fine job of looking the part, and giving some layers to the character, but her accent won’t work for many. Marisa Tomei doesn’t get a lot to do and she has turned in far better work as of late. Ben Kingsley pops up as a deranged and crazy hitman from Hauser’s past and is just a bit odd overall. Joan Cusack is hit or miss with her yelling while her brother is solid as always, though isn’t bringing anything terribly new to the table either. Nobody really helped lift the picture into being something more, while no one really ruined anything either.
In the end, War Inc. is an admirable attempt that doesn’t really pan out. The actors are having fun being in on the silliness of the film, but it never fully embraces being outright absurd, or wanting to be serious/satirical with a message. The unbalanced nature of the film makes it moderately watchable, and if you are a fan of Cusack it is worth a shot, just don’t plan on being terribly impressed.