Ow. Shouldn’t political satires be less yelly? An eat-your-spinach lefty comedy seemingly made for a small coterie of Nation subscribers, War, Inc. converts the evil of mercenary interests in Iraq into some fairly strident nonentertainment. Cowritten by its star, John Cusack (in crafty Grosse Pointe Blank mode, but less charmingly), the movie is set in fictional Turaqistan, where the outsourced military occupation comes complete with gift bags and teen-trashy pop concerts. Cusack, a self-hating ex-spook who chugs hot sauce to dull the pain, is hired by Tamerlane, the Halliburton-like invading corporation, to take out an oil minister named Omar Sharif. The assassin arrives and dawdles.
Little of Cusack’s constant stream of sad-but-true snark works as humor—nor, likely, will it work as news to anyone who’s read a paper lately. If the goal here is a Middle East Dr. Strangelove, the movie is lacking its anarchic Terry Southern, a scripter who flared out Kubrick’s chilly compositions with his equal-opportunity barbs. (Southern would never write a line as bald as “I like killing people as much as the next guy, but I signed up to kill the bad ones.”) When the women show up—Marisa Tomei’s unbuttoned journalist and Hilary Duff’s Eastern European lip-syncher—they do little to dishevel the lecture. Black comedy worked in Dr. Strangelove because that film contemplated the end of the world. Here, it feels strangely like overkill.