War, Inc.

War, Inc.

*1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Question: what do you get if you sling the futuristic dystopia aspects of Brazil and the comedy of Borat into a bowl and sprinkle with a pinch of extreme violence and a nod to Knight Rider?

Answer: a right royal mess.

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In Turaqistan in the near future, Brand Hauser (John Cusack) is a fixer for a big corporation, called Tamerlane. Fresh from his latest kill, he is sent to this Iraq lookalike to assassinate Omar Sharif - no, not that one - the leader of a neighbouring country, who plans on building an oil pipeline that will undermine lucrative multinational interference.

The first nail in the coffin is the overcomplicated set-up. Talkie exposition is required to establish the idea of an all-conquering corporation, run by Dan Akroyd, initially featured in a not-in-the-slightest-bit-amusing sequence during which he gives orders from the lav. If this is what passes for satire, bring back Animal House.

He's not the man on the ground, however. That job is left to a faceless commander, whose voice has been altered to protect his identity. If this isn’t plot overload, the way that Hauser is supposed to get close to his mark by pretending to host a US trade show and arranging the marriage of an oversexed Cheeky Girl-style pop pixie Yonica (Hilary Duff) certainly is. Marisa Tomei, meanwhile, is a tough news reporter, trying to find out what's going on in the war-torn state. When she meets up with Hauser, dealing with his life choices, courtesy of a Kit-style computer psychiatrist in his car, and knocking back shots of hot sauce, do you think love will bloom in an all-too-expected place?

You've ceased to care by this point, but just in case further confusion is required, Joan Cusack pops up as a strident assistant, virtually chewing the furniture in the manner of a children's cartoon villain, and Ben Kingsley gets to massacre yet another American accent, this time with a Southern drawl, as Hauser's former CIA boss, who was previously dedicated to making sure he stayed at the agency at all costs.

Thoughts turn to that coffin again and by now its looking like a comfy option. Get in, because it isn't long before nail number two - the film's dreadful look - hammers home. Where Terry Gilliam's Brazil looked a million dollars, even if the story occasionally strayed, everything here looks cheap and, more worryingly, fake. Satire works best when it stays as close as possible to reality, but here they have taken the last bus to Cuckooland.

The dialogue is so pretentious, it merits a casket of its own. The jokes almost uniformly fall flat and yet it is as though the cast and scriptwriters are constantly nodding to one another and admiring their own cleverness, which amplifies the fakery. In this case, weird does not equal wonderful.

As events escalate, you can't tell mish from mash. There are explosions - that's where the budget went – soul searchings and pat resolutions. The cast seems to be having a great time, which only adds to the sense of all-pervading smugness.

"It's like a slow motion suicide," someone says.

Watching is slow motion murder. Thank goodness for that coffin.

Reviewed on: 27 Apr 2008
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A hit man is sent to a fictional war-torn Middle Eastern country where the United States is waging the first fully outsourced war.
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Director: Joshua Seftel

Writer: Mark Leyner, Jeremy Pikser, John Cusack

Starring: John Cusack, Joan Cusack, Marisa Tomei, Hilary Duff, Ben Kingsley, Ned Bellamy, Velizar Binev, Shirly Brener, Marc Casabani, Ben Cross, Doug Dearth

Year: 2008

Runtime: 107 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: USA

Festivals:

Tribeca 2008

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