I’m so stoked. John Cusack cross-posted my review of his movie War, Inc. from Progressive Blue to his MySpace blog after I sent him the link in a comment. Thanks, John. Just for that, I’m crossposting this like crazy.
Here’s the review:
The Flicks Files: War, Inc. (2008)
The best new movie I’ve seen all year went almost straight to video after playing in a pathetically small number of theaters for a very short time. (Has anybody else noticed that Hollywood has been putting out some real crap this year? I’m not sure this corporate conglomeratization thing is working real well for them.)
The only new movie I’ve really cared about seeing this year was War, Inc., the bitterly biting satire of Halliburton-style war profiteering, which stars John Cusack, was directed by Joshua Seftel, and written by Mark Leyner & Jeremy Pikser & John Cusack. As might be expected by anyone who has become as cynical as I am in this land of the corporate controlled press, the movie struggled for distribution and promotion for a brief weekend or two in May, then was quickly swept under the red carpet. This, despite an all-star cast that includes Hilary Duff, Marisa Tomei, Joan Cusack, Ben Kingsley, and Dan Aykroyd.
Of course, we wouldn’t want to jump to conclusions about the reason the movie “flopped.” Maybe it was censored. Maybe it just sucked. At least, that latter explanation was one I was willing to entertain up until the point where I finally saw the movie this afternoon. No, it was censored. And that really pisses me off.
This movie has a great cast and a hilariously absurdist script. It’s been said, probably in what little marketing there was of this movie, that it’s the spiritual twin to Grosse Pointe Blank, but after seeing it, I felt like it was more a modern day Dr. Strangelove. There was a time in America, and it was not so long ago, when this movie would have been shown widely in the theaters, boycotted by some right-wing groups, and would have generated a storm of controversy in the press. In 2008, you hardly heard it whispered about. And that is much more scary.
Full disclosure here. I wanted this movie to succeed, artistically, even if not at the box office. The issue it discusses is of critical importance. Besides that, I really like John Cusack. I have liked him ever since my sister and I first cracked up laughing during a preview of Better Off Dead when we were in high school. I like him much more now that he’s become an outspoken progressive blogger.
I’ve blogged about this movie before seeing it, which is pretty unusual for me, and I announced ahead of time that I would review it. Yesterday, knowing that I would probably get the DVD in the mail today, I was a little stressed out hoping that my honesty would not force me to give it a bad review. Fortunately, honesty intact, I can say that I loved it.
John Cusack’s character in the movie, Hauser, is a corporate hitman for Tamerlane, a fictional Halliburton kind of company. He’s sent to do an assassination in a fictional Middle Eastern country called Turaqistan, during the first American war completely outsourced to a private corporation. The movie opens with him doing a shot of pure hot sauce before a hit. This is one tough dude.
To pull off the assassination, he has to pose as the organizer for an American trade show showcasing the benefits of American corporate culture to a Turaqi audience. An inquisitive reporter for The Nation (Marisa Tomei) gets in his way. You get the feeling he might kill her, if he didn’t start falling for her. As part of his trade show organizing cover job, he also has to babysit a bratty, oversexed Turaqi pop star (Hilary Duff). Fortunately, his hyper and perky yet menacing secretary (Joan Cusack) is there to help him do his job. It doesn’t take too long before we start realizing that Hauser has some growing moral questions about his work.
Forget realism. If you’re looking for an intellectual, balanced critique of American policy, you’re not going to find it here. This movie makes its point by taking everything to an absurd, yet all too believable extreme. This is a sharp and cutting picture of the ridiculousness of extreme corporatization, where you can have a clandestine meeting in an undisclosed location hidden underneath a Popeye’s restaurant.
The improbable relationships between Cusack’s hitman, Tomei’s progressive journalist, and Duff’s pop star were risky. Initially I thought they were not going to work, because they just seemed way too unlikely, but in a few quiet human moments that were a haven in the madness of this movie, those relationships came together and actually became even touching. Hauser seems at times a little too nice to be a hitman, but at those moments, the character has a soul that you wish you could see evident in some of the members of the Bush administration. His capacity to question what he is doing ultimately makes him a sympathetic character.
The people who made this movie took a big risk to make an important point. Progressives will love it for its frank presentation of the huge problem America has with corporations that lobby our government so that they can make money through killing other people. Conservatives will no doubt screech loudly that John Cusack hates America.
At least, that’s what I imagine will happen if the movie manages to be seen on DVD by enough people to even become a subject of discussion. See the movie, then go out and show it to others. This movie is a teaching opportunity, as Democratic congressional candidate Alan Grayson recognized while running in Florida’s 8th District. Spread the word.
War, Inc. is rated R for some bad language, a little sexy stuff, and some pretty graphic violence. Given the subject matter, the violence makes sense, but be forewarned.
Watch the trailer:
War, Inc. receives the coveted Edge of My Seat rating in the black cat rating system, the highest rating possible.