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"War, Inc."

Directed by Joshua Seftel.
Written by John Cusack, Mark Leyner and Jeremy Pikser.
Starring John Cusack, Joan Cusack, Hilary Duff and Ben Kingsley.
Release Year:  2008
Review Date:  6/11/08


Let's just say it--you don't fuck with the classics, especially movies that you, yourself, appeared in.  So, note to John Cusack--making a spiritual cousin to "Grosse Pointe Blank" was a bad idea from the jump, even if your movie was a dead-on sequel to a cult classic.

"War, Inc."--featuring Cusack as a former CIA killer who now contracts himself out to the highest bidder--is supposed to be a combination political satire, black comedy, action film and faux psychological drama/revenge thriller, but on none of those levels does the film work.  That's because it's at times strangely violent (like, the eye-getting-poked-out variety, or the bad-guy-gets-crushed-in-a-trash-compactor variety), vaguely romantic, an indictment of our war with Iraq--or really, any war of the last fifty years, for that matter--and a flashback film that covers the loss of the wife of Cusack's character.  In between, the comedy isn't that good, Marisa Tomei is made strangely unsexy, Hilary Duff plays a Middle Eastern pop singer (I have no idea how to explain this other than to say..."Hilary Duff plays a Middle Eastern pop singer") and Dan Aykroyd shows up to play a former vice president in two essentially throwaway scenes.

Because Cusack is essentially playing a hit man again, and Joan Cusack shows up as his partner in crime (again), and this is supposed to be an action-comedy with a political backdrop as its one change, you'll feel like this is the B-side of "Grosse Pointe Blank" right away.  The major change is that "War, Inc." is so awful it will make you run home and watch the DVD of "GPB" again just to remind yourself of why you quietly hope Cusack will somehow become either a major box office star or at least a decent actor, but then you catch yourself, because you know that it will never happen, especially since for every "GPB", Cusack plays himself in one or two other dogs like "Con Air" or "America's Sweethearts."  Cusack has been working in films for nearly 25 years ("Sixteen Candles" was out in freakin', but why is he not any better, or any more charismatic, or any better of a writer, or any more popular?  Is it possible to be a 30- or 40-year veteran and headline films and still never be great?

Maybe it is, because "War, Inc." is a major disappointment, given its cast and possibilities with the subject matter.  Meg said it best on the way out of the theater--it was like the script was written by a bunch of guys over pizza and beer one night, and someone actually decided to use that as the shooting script...bad move.  Did I mention that Hilary Duff is playing a Middle Eastern pop singer?

Rating:  Hard Vice


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09