t’s neat trick to make satire about war in a time of war, or when it’s on the brain. Stanley Kubrick succeeded with “Dr. Strangelove” because his wacky people were only a few degrees south of the Cold War normal. A Kubrick case in point was Gen. Jack D. Ripper, whose delusional belief Commies had hijacked the water system was weirdly convincing enough to kick-start the giant farce.
John Cusack and director Joshua Seftel do “War, Inc.” no such favors. On the contrary, they warp character and circumstance into one-liner caricatures that grow tedious within minutes. Brand Hauser (Cusack) is an assassin hired by a former vice president and his henchmen to do a dirty deed in Turaquistan, a country America has invaded and “pacified” thanks to the help of corporate mega-consultancy Tamerlane. Of course the make-believe nation is Iraq; of course the make-believe ex-VP is Dick Cheney; of course Tamerlane is fix-it-all Halliburton.
Hemmed in early, Cusack (who co-wrote) is stuck with a one-trick-pony nagged by Strangelove. Sure, there’s a liberal love interest (Marisa Tomei), a wacky, Britney-style local pop singer (Hilary Duff) and zany female Tamerlane rep (Joan Cusack). There’s also a Strangelove-copy wheelchair villain (“The Viceroy,” Ben Kingsley), who gets mincemeat lines: “We can launch a matchstick in Milwaukee and stick it up the ass of a termite in Tehran.”
Not only do the stars fail to align, they’re defeated by Pig Latin. A film that wants to ring up U.S. foreign policy and corporate malfeasance comes to represent the “lost-the-plot” America it claims to laugh at. Slapstick gets slapped. “Brand” Hauser? Please.