Released to poor critical acclaim and a limited number of theaters, War, Inc. made a bit more of a presence than expected in that limited number, raking in under a million dollars but with only showing in 33 screens, that makes for quite an impressive per-screen cash in. Although it didn’t go wide, the series met its share of critics and fans along the way. Co-written by star John Cusack, War, Inc. may have been an overall box office failure, but fans of Cusack quickly added the film to the top of their list based on the insane plot and sequences alone.
Recreating his role as a hitman, John Cusack gives a hilarious performance in War, Inc. , a political satire set in Turaqistan, a country occupied by an American private corporation run by a former U.S. Vice President (Dan Akroyd). In an effort to monopolize the opportunities the war-torn nation offers, the corporation’s CEO hires Hauser (Cusack) to kill a Middle Eastern oil minister. Now, struggling with his own growing demons, the assassin must pose as the corporations Trade Show Producer in order to pull off this latest hit, while maintaining his cover by organizing the high-profile wedding of Yonica Babyyeah (Hilary Duff), an outrageous Central Asian pop star, and keeping a sexy left-wing reporter (Marisa Tomei) in check.
First I feel I must address the information surrounding the film that this is a sequel of sorts to Cusack’s other hitman tale, Grosse Pointe Blank. I made the specific effort to watch that film (no, I hadn’t seen it and yes, I regret not having done so earlier) after watching this film to discern if the two were really similar and I can fairly and easily say that…no, they are not. There are some correlations you can draw between the two, but at best War, Inc. is a sequel “in spirit”, as the characters presented in it are wildly different and also, to put it simply, this film is ****ing insane. I can’t describe it any other way; this film is just going to blow your mind, regardless of whether or not you enjoy it.
I prepared myself for disappointment with this film based off of the deluge of bad reviews that it received, but I remained optimistic simply because of the cast. I’ve grown to enjoy Cusack as an actor, although I’ve watched some real stinkers that he’s been in (one of which is trailered on on this disc, The Contract with Morgan Freeman—an utterly crap movie) so I knew full well to expect garbage as well. Instead I was presented with a film that made my head hurt for the first half hour and then it slowly alleviated into some kind of bliss because of how absolutely crazy this film got. I cannot begin to describe the absurdity of it all. I was talking to a friend while watching it and I’d frequently interrupt our conversation with a comment about something ridiculous happening on screen. Needless to say my outbursts intrigued him and he’ll be checking out the film to see if I was simply blowing hot air or what, but I guarantee you that you’ll wonder just what is going on with this film the first time you watch it.
At its core the film is a parody of the U.S. bombing countries and the occupying them and rebuilding them. The plot is about a subtle as a hammer to the skull, with Akroyd playing an obvious Cheney lampoon, while Turaqistan stands in for…well, I’ll let you fill in the blank on that one. As in your face as the whole production is, it begins to take on so much baggage along the way that you can liken it to a tornado. At the center is the satire of the U.S. government, while as it goes along it begins to pick up on other things before it eventually creates an insane cluster of characters and plots that swirl around and eventually smash in together at the end.
Cusack’s character is obviously the focus of the whole event and its him that we watch for the majority of the film, ranging from his hilarious conversations to his OnStar like vehicle assist, to his hot sauce chugging tendencies and his strange feelings for Yonica Babyyeah and Natalie Hegalhuzen (Tomei), Cusack carries the film with ease and is nothing short of a delight to watch. Duff is surprisingly apt in her role, complete with an accent that simultaneously makes you like and hate the character and Tomei is a bit of a stereotypical hard-ass journalist until her character begins to change it up a bit in the end.
I won’t even begin to try to explain the ending of the film as I’m not entirely sure I comprehended it myself, but needless to say what started out as a random film just progressively got worse with its plot developments. It did mirror a few instances of Grosse Pointe Blank with the way Cusack’s character is “unveiled” to the rest of the cast, but that’s about as far as I’m willing to draw the comparisons. I hesitate to even say if you enjoyed one film you’ll enjoy the other, as they’re really drastically different in tone. While both are black comedies of sorts, War, Inc. is just a tad bit more unhinged, which makes it all the crazier.
Overall I really do Recommend War, Inc., as screwed up as a film it is. It kind of falls apart in the end, with the special effects for the film becoming noticeably cheap at that point (prior to that they were actually quite impressive for a film with a $5 million budget, what with the rubble and destroyed buildings making up the landscape) and the plot taking some strange turns and becoming almost a little too slapstick and over-the-top, but overall it’s still worth checking out if you enjoy the oddball comedy/satire. There is definitely some political leaning going on in this film, but even if you are in the camp it lampoons, I think there is enough of a general statement here to be enjoyed by all.
After thoroughly enjoying the film I became immediately saddened when I realized that this was First Look Studios release, as that meant there would be zero extras. No commentaries, no behind-the-scenes look into the making of the film…absolutely nothing. The film itself is an interlaced transfer and rather compressed in spots, but overall not making for too bad of a picture. I’d be interested in seeing how the Blu-ray transfer fares, as I’m not entirely sure why First Look still does 480i transfers…seems rather ridiculous to me. The included 5.1 mix isn’t all that impressive either, with surrounds falling flat most of the time, although there is a fair bit of subwoofer rumble during the films more active sequences. Overall, however, the disc is quite a disappointment. I realize it was a bit of a box office failure, but a bit more oomph behind this release would have only helped it sell releases. As is a slipcover with a papery texture isn’t going to exactly make this one fly off the shelves. Rent this one and pick it up on the used rack if you truly enjoyed it.
War, Inc. arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on October 14th.