Tuesday, March 31, 2009

War, Inc.

"War, Inc." (Joshua Seftel, 2008) It's hard to say exactly when the satire of "War, Inc." starts to outwear its welcome. It does a very neat job of skewering so much that was wrong with the Bush Administration and its gung-ho weldng of the Military-Industrial Complex made simple, while at the same time being rather prudish about why it might not be such a good thing to export American culture to other parts of the world. Perhaps the problem is it doesn't take anything seriously, not its believes-in-nothing protagonist, not its comical situation (it's trying to be "Dr. Strangelove" but has more in keeping with "The Americanization of Emily" or even "John Goldfarb, Please Come Home"), it would probably sneer at the legitimate instincts that might engender such over-reactions...and then when it decides to get serious about something, you start looking around for the apple-pie salesman. Let's review.

Hauser is a corporate hit-man (what inspires
John Cusack to play assassins—not enough action movie offers?) working for the multi-national, multi-faceted Tamerlane Corporation. Hauser gets a new assignment from the just-out-of-office Vice President (Dan Aykroyd, animating Dick Cheney) to assassinate one Omar Sharif (seriously), the head of UgiGas in Turaqistan, where America has just won the first-in-history 100% "completely out-sourced" war. Hauser is posing as an event-planner for Tamerlane's first Corporate meeting in its new acquisition, the centerpiece of which will be the marriage of Turaqistan's jail bait pop-star Yonica Babyyeah (Hilary Duff, miles away from Disney) to one Ooq-Mi-Fay,* all in an effort to inspire Democracy in the Turaqistanis with American culture.

Already you can see the combination of deep thought and juvenilia mixed in one big lumpy stew, but the movie occasionally scores grisly points: reporters in Turaqistan enjoy the "Imbedded Journalistic Experience," a Six-Flags-like jerk-ride that lets them gape at high-def war-footage while strapped into comfy high-chairs feeling the buffets; and one point Hauser checks in with a chorus line of Turaqistani women high-kicking...with artificial limbs. All visitors be they friendly or terrorist walks away with a Tamerlane SWAG-bag, a running gag that doesn't stale.

Hauser is so dead inside, that the only way he can feel anything is kicking back with a shot-glass of hot-sauce straight, although he is frequently diverted by a left-wing journalist (
Marisa Tomei, excellent...again!) trying to get to the bottom of anything. Yonica Babyyeah is your basic Britney-Jessica-Christina-Paris-Lindsey-Miley sex-'tween (authentically played by Hilary Duff, who convincingly curses like a sailor) although the point of the vapidity of America's pop-culture is done to death. John Cusack's sister Joan is his administrative assistant in a performance that is extreme even for her. Sir Ben Kingsley rounds out the cast as Tamerlane's Supreme Commander Walken, in an American accent highly reminiscent of the bad ones Laurence Olivier used to sport, when he deemed to slum as a colonist.

Eventually everything comes to such a frothy rabid boil that it curdles, so much so that even someone sympathetic to its ideas (like me) would rather invest their time in writing a letter to their congressman than sitting through this thing again.

* His father's name is Ooq-Yu-Fay. That might be the tipping point right there.

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