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War, Inc. (2008)

War, Inc. Feature film. (2008, 107 mins) IMDB

...Where do you draw the line when writing a satire?...

W

ar, Inc. is a satire of Dick Cheney, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the private companies earning billions in the process.

Dan Ackroyd plays the Dick Cheney-type character--former US vice-president, runs a private company making billions on the war. He hires Cusack to kill Omar Sharif (Yes, they used that name), a political leader in a fictional country that has a green zone like Baghdad but people like Afghanis. The leader dresses like the president of Afghanistan. Cusack plays an efficient, but troubled assassin. He used to work with the CIA, but is in the private sector now.

Unlike a lone wolf assassin, Cusack goes to the country under a cover. He will run a trade conference that promotes American businesses. There's humour in that setup because the conference makes no sense given the bombings and shootings happening all around. That's a sample of the satire.

His sister, Joan, plays in the scheme as his secretary. He has an office where at the end of each meeting he hands out gift bags. Everybody has to get a gift bag.

When he arrives in this country, he meets Marisa Tomei who plays a high-brow print journalist. She is completely against the war, while Cusack is ambivalent because he likes the money he's making, but in meeting her, he loses focus. He's infatuated with her while she's interested in getting a story which leads to a great deal of onscreen time between the two.

In another example of humour, he explains he knows such-and-such because he's trying to be culturally sensitive to the locals. When he finishes his speech, the camera focuses on an American labourer constructing something for the conference. On his back is a large tattoo that reads: Fuck Haji! So much for cultural sensitivity. (If you're not aware, Haji is often a name given to a Muslim man who made the pilgrimage to Mecca.)

While he's trying to get somewhere with the reporter, he's also tracking the movements of Omar Sharif. He has many chances to kill the guy but doesn't. It seems he's growing a conscious and by the end of the movie, he abandons the assassination and warns his target. His focus is on the man played by Ben Kingsley who is running the whole show. It seems they worked together at the CIA which includes a ridiculous subplot where Cusack's wife was killed and his daughter taken away.

Cusack isn't just an assassin with a rifle or gun, he's also hand-to-hand combat fighter. There's a seen where the posse attack him in a bathroom. It was fun to watch Cusack fight off five guys and leave them behind. Reminded me of a similar scene in TRUE LIES. Why does it work? We want to see these cretins get the shit kicked out of them.

There's another subplot to complicate matters. Hillary Duff plays a teen pop-star, but instead of being American she's Arab or Muslim or both with dark hair instead of blonde. The lyrics to her songs are dreadful and maybe they were meant to be. (I want to blow you...up.) The double entendre.

The Duff character is surrounded by white rap wannabes who are abusive and boorish and well they all seemed alike that it was impossible know who was who.

This entire pop culture subplot was dreadful and clichéd. It ties back in the end with Cusack when it's revealed she's his lost daughter. Well, there were lots of funny moments in the early part of the film, but I guess if you're a Cheney type, you probably weren't laughing.

There's another aspect of the war played out here: foreigners who are kidnapped and beheaded, the event recorded on video. Our reporter who wants a story travels to a bombed out city where she is captured and Cusack comes to save her. Here's an example of satire that doesn't work. It's not the least bit plausible and it's too raw to be funny. It's one of the challenges of writing satire--how far do you go? In this film, they went far and further and it doesn't seem they left anything out.

While it's not a great movie, it is worth watching particularly if you like the idea of ridiculing Bush and Cheney.

Posted 2009/02/20 at 17h49ET in Movie Commentary.

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