Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here.
THE FOLLOWING IS A CORRECTED INTRODUCTION, REPLACING THE INCORRECT INFORMATION ORIGINALLY HERE:
WAR INC may have hit theaters in Canada last week, but it’s actually opening in New York and LA on May 23. It played the Tribeca Film Festival a few nights ago as well.
What Vern saw was, evidently, not a screener for the DVD release, but simply a screener for this theatrical release. John Cusack’s on the publicity trail for this one now, too, doing everything from Jimmy Kimmel to Al Jazeera. I’m hoping to take a look at this release from First Look ASAP.
Are you guys as curious about this one as I am?
As an aficionado of DTV I’ve exposed myself to many works from the Millennium Films library, films starring the likes of Van Damme, Seagal, Snipes, Jai White, Timberlake, etc. I’m talking about movies like THE ORDER, UNDISPUTED 1-2, OUT FOR A KILL, UNSTOPPABLE, TODAY YOU DIE, EDISON FORCE, MERCENARY FOR JUSTICE, UNTIL DEATH and the DAY OF THE DEAD “remake.” They’re the kings of crap – kind of like the new Cannon Films except they don’t have as many fluke good ones under their belt as Cannon did. They’ve made it to the big screen every once in a while which is how we got THE BLACK DAHLIA, THE WICKER MAN and some of those shitty Al Pacino movies that have been coming out lately. I’m obviously biased on the Seagal pictures so let’s just say the closest they’ve ever gotten to a great movie is RAMBO.
So I was surprised to see their logo at the beginning of John Cusack’s new satire WAR, INC. I guess that explains why this movie that I thought was coming to theaters already has a DVD screener available. (Apparently it’s playing right now in Toronto, New York and LA next month, then straight to DVD July 1st.) The movie does have some of the Millennium Films feel here and there but it’s actually a pretty good one, a much more competent shot at making some of the points that were fumbled in LORD OF WAR and the awe-inspiringly god awful tsunami of directorial over confidence that was SOUTHLAND TALES.
Cusack plays Hauser, an ex-CIA assassin now working for Tamerlane, a private security firm headed by the recently-cleared-of-all-charges ex-vice president of the United States (Dan Aykroyd mixing some Nixon into a Cheney imitation). Hauser’s new assignment is to take out a head of state named Omar Sharif (not played by Omar Sharif though, I didn’t really get this joke). Hauser enters the Green Zone of occupied-Turaqistan undercover as the producer of a trade show bringing democracy and American technology to this devastated war zone. But before he does the hit he starts questioning the ethics of it due to his encounters with a left wing journalist (Marisa Tomei) and a central-Asian pop star named Yonica Babyyeah (Hilary Duff).
Shit, typing out that last sentence I realize how much this does sound on paper like SOUTHLAND TALES, but the difference is it has some story in there and the satirical ideas are much more focused and accurate. True, lumping in a parody of young sexualized pop stars with an attack on war profiteering is a little SPY HARD for my tastes but at least you can make heads or tales out of it.
And having Duff play the character is a little more meaningful than stunt casting. On one hand she’s not a good enough actress to pull off the accent. On the other hand, having an actual Disney Channel child star turned skanky pop singer in the role kind of shows how true it is. This is the “culture” we are exporting around the world and it’s not that big of a stretch to imagine some day the bride of Middle Eastern royalty will be rolling with an entourage of Ali G type douchebags or dancing around on stage pretending to suck off a gas pump.
(SPECIAL SPOILER SECTION: It’s also funny at the end when she turns out to be his missing daughter and he is devastated – in most movies she would’ve been sold into white slavery or would’ve died of a drug overdose but in this one the villain fucks over the hero by teaching his daughter to act like a hoe and sing terrible songs.)
To be honest I think it’s a little late for this movie – it would’ve been fist-pumpingly subversive early in the war when people weren’t paying as much attention, but now it’s kind of commonly agreed upon that this is the deal. So I don’t think it’s gonna change any minds. But as a gallows humor portrait of the madness of corporate war profiteering it’s a good one. Tamerlane follows the Halliburton philosophy of getting paid to blow shit up and then getting paid to fix it up again. One of their products is a prosthetic leg made from some of the same technology that was used to blow off people’s legs in the first place. They show off this product by teaching a group of amputees to dance like The Rockettes. There’s alot of funny/creepy ideas like this, my favorite being the Star Tours type movie ride for journalists to experience battle (the next step after embedded journalists I guess). Also you gotta love Hauser’s meeting with “The Viceroy” which starts with him jumping over the counter at a front Popeye’s Chicken and ends with him in a room speaking to a TV image morphing between American icons like John Wayne, Ronald Reagan, Flipper and Hulk Hogan.
I guess maybe this is supposed to be a little bit in the future, but not much. There’s a funny joke about that in the beginning. Like some fantasy or post-apocalypse movie it starts with text:
“In the 21st century, great corporations will bestride the earth, replacing nations as the true creators of history, amassing powerful private armies to do their bidding.”
Hard to imagine such a far out sci-fi concept, huh?
I wouldn’t say the movie is hilarious but it has alot of funny ideas in it. For example I liked that Hauser’s closest confidant seems to be the OnStar service in his private jet (and I didn’t even know until the credits that the voice on the other side was Montel Williams).
If you’ve never heard of this movie you may be wondering if it’s supposed to be connected to Cusack’s other hitman movie GROSSE POINTE BLANK. Cusack is not playing the same character in name or backstory, but otherwise it could be. He’s another black suit wearing, fast talking, cynical, troubled, lonely motherfucker who happens to kill for a living and can kick the shit out of people when he wants to. Once again he has his sister Joan as his assistant/secretary and there is the reappearance of Aykroyd.
The style of action is pretty similar too – it’s mostly a comedy, but when violence erupts it’s fast and harsh and Cusack is convincing. I really like the fights in this movie and there’s a funny action idea I don’t think I’ve seen before. It’s the old classic where during a gun fight a guy who doesn’t have a gun challenges him to fight hand-to-hand instead, and of course out of some kind of honor or competitive spirit he accepts. But then instead of pulling his clip out and throwing his gun down like they usually do he keeps it in his hand the whole time. He just happens to be honorable enough to kickbox the guy without using the gun in his hand.
So there are similarities, but as a story and set of characters GROSSE POINTE BLANK is much more successful, because it’s easier to relate to. It has the universal high school reunion themes: being depressed about what you’ve done with your life, nostalgia for old times, questioning your past mistakes, wanting a second chance and all that shit. That’s what drives the story in addition to Cusack’s character having a moral crisis about murdering somebody. WAR, INC. has much bigger fish to fry so the focus is more on the chaos of this war zone and less on those relatable human things. There’s a budding romance and a troubled past and what not but they seem more like movie cliches than real human emotions.
So as a story it’s a little disconnected and sloppy, but eventually it comes together. And as far as Millennium Films pictures go it almost counts as concise storytelling. I’m not sure without the logo I would’ve recognized it as one of theirs, although it does feature a troubled ex-CIA badass, is gloomily filmed in Bulgaria somewhere and even features Avid fart flashbacks to traumatic moments from his past. There’s also a scene where some aspiring filmatists/kidnappers are watching a Seagal movie (looks like BELLY OF THE BEAST) and commenting that “Seagal is like 600 pounds now” and that he uses body doubles for everything but closeups. So be careful Cusack, you don’t want to cross Millennium.
I don’t know, I’m not saying this would be a big hit movie, and it played fine on the small screen for me. But it’s kind of a shame to see it getting dumped unceremoniously like an old couch. At the very least it’s a nice try and I think plenty of people will enjoy it.
Originally posted at Ain’t-It-Cool-News: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/36547
View the archived Ain’t-It-Cool-News Talkback
April 28, 2008, 8:29 a.m. CST
by Magic Rat
April 28, 2008, 8:29 a.m. CST
Anyone seen my dad?
by Bastard Son of Superman
April 28, 2008, 8:29 a.m. CST
Doesn’t look [OMGWTFIRST!] too good
by William Ashbless
I watched the trailer and the jokes just bombed one after the other. Still, the idea was pretty funny.
April 28, 2008, 8:30 a.m. CST
NO OMGWTFIRST? NOOOOOO!
by William Ashbless
April 28, 2008, 8:31 a.m. CST
by Magic Rat
has made one good movie in the last 20 years.
Anyone wanna guess which one I’m referring to?
April 28, 2008, 8:36 a.m. CST
Hilary Duff as an East Asian?
April 28, 2008, 8:48 a.m. CST
Bastard Son of Superman
I might get tired of that at some point, but for now I still laugh every time I read that subject header.
April 28, 2008, 8:53 a.m. CST
Grosse Point Blank connections
by Franklin T Marmoset
I think these connections are what interest me most about this one, since I love that film. I note from IMDB that this is another one where Cusack has had a hand in the screenplay, so that gives me some hope.
It’s a shame he couldn’t have roped in George Armitage and maybe Minnie Driver and done a full-on Grosse Point sequel. I would love to see that.
April 28, 2008, 8:54 a.m. CST
by Dwide Shrewd
was Cusack’s last good film. 8 years ago.
April 28, 2008, 9:01 a.m. CST
I Gotta Say, This Looks Funny To Me
And I always enjoy seeing Cusack kick ass. The big question here is, is he another widower? It seems like in the last 5 movies I’ve seen with Cusack, his wife eitehr dies right at the start or died a few years before the time period of the film. He apparently has a thing for playing widowers.
April 28, 2008, 9:01 a.m. CST
Eitehr . . . I mean, Either
But am I right or am I right? Cusack’s spouses have a high mortality rate on screen.
April 28, 2008, 9:17 a.m. CST
Daddy doesn’t love me.
by Bastard Son of Superman
April 28, 2008, 9:20 a.m. CST
I need a hair loss scene
by Spandau Belly
Where Cusak checks out his bald spot in the mirror and notices a bar code he never knew he had.
April 28, 2008, 9:21 a.m. CST
by Bastard Son of Superman
April 28, 2008, 9:24 a.m. CST
I´m glad your flu is over, Vern
April 28, 2008, 9:27 a.m. CST
What about the Ice Harvest
Haven’t rented it yet, but I thought that was generally considered to be good.
April 28, 2008, 9:33 a.m. CST
Fist pumpingly subversive?
I seem to recall when this war first started and everything that was actualy “fist pumpingly subversive” was either dismissed or bashed as being America-hatred, Bush-hatred or just plain propaganda. Funny how, now that everyone is finally on board, instead of FINALLY giving a voice to these films, people just shrug and say, “Eh…we knew this already. No point talking about it now.” Jesus, people today sure have a hatred for being wrong and having to change their mind. Having said all that, this movie sounds like crap.
April 28, 2008, 10:30 a.m. CST
I’ll probably still check this out
Grosse Point Blank was fantastic, so if this has even half the charm of that one I think I’ll enjoy it. It does seem a shame it’s been dumped DTV though.
I heard they wanted to make a Grosse Point sequel but they didn’t have the rights to the characters so they just did similar characters instead for this film.
April 28, 2008, 11:22 a.m. CST
Fist Pumpingly Subversive
If Peter Travers had written that, it would be on the cover of this movie.
April 28, 2008, 11:44 a.m. CST
DevilCat Stop killing the talkback you stupid fucking moron
You sir, are Maroooon. A jablo!
April 28, 2008, 1:46 p.m. CST
Akroyd’s Cheney impression looks hilarious, it could be good satire, as long as it sticks to the script and doesn’t get bogged down in lefty self-congratulation. Corporate cronyism in politics is a ripe topic for deep flaying, I just hope they get it right and don’t turn it into a soap-box rant.
April 28, 2008, 1:50 p.m. CST
Buddy, I was not wrong and did not have to change my mind. I’m saying I would’ve loved to see this movie back then, it would’ve given me goosebumps because it’s what needed to be said back then. Now I saw it and I liked it but it does have a been-there, done-that quality because most people have caught on by now. That’s the facts, jack. Don’t blame me.
April 28, 2008, 2:01 p.m. CST
make duff take her top off
enough of the teasing, you fucking skeeze…show us the goods….oh, and i have much man love for cusack…this movie is sure to piss off the wingnuts
April 28, 2008, 2:06 p.m. CST
Is this a sequel?
to Grosse Point Blank?
April 28, 2008, 2:09 p.m. CST
Vern, do you really think so?
Bush’s approval rating is the lowest it’s ever been, and most Americans are ‘against’ the war, (though finding two people who feel exactly the same way about it isn’t easy) That said though, I have a feeling that even though the specific premise of this film might seem ho-hum so-last-year to you, most people watching a film that basically says that our government has been subverted by corporate interests, AND that our soldiers are dying to line the pockets of a few wealthy elites- might not be so ready to believe it.
Personally, if the comedy serves to enlighten, and they get their facts straight, I think this movie could be really important, and timely NOW. The new system set up by Cheney and Co. will outlive the Bush presidency, it might outlive us, for all we know, so the more people who learn about it now the better. Go ask a perfect stranger on the street if he or she is against the war, but supports the troops. Pretty easy, most people would probably say yes. now ask that same person if they believe that their government colluded with some private interests to wage a war and put us all at risk based on false pretenses, not to mention exploit the military to increase profits and give them a veneer of respectability and an unassailable shield against dissent (as the bodies piled up), that essentially, war is now literally a business, with our elected leaders more interested in serving their shareholders than the American people. I doubt you’ll get the same answer.
April 28, 2008, 3:48 p.m. CST
samsquanch: support the troops, not the mission
by Spandau Belly
My country is not in Iraq, but we’re in Afganistan and we get pretty much the same debate and the phrase “support the troops but not the mission” has become my most hated catchphrase.
How the fuck can anybody say “I don’t support what you do but I support you for doing it?” It blows my mind. The defense they always give is that these soldiers have “no choice” which is total bullshit since my country does not employ conscription. If these guys don’t want to be judged based on the decisions and orders of their superiors then they shouldn’t sign their free will away to them.
I get that these guys join the army during peace time and are ordered to fight in this war, but if they had a deep ethical problem with it they could quit/refuse. Sure, there’d be consequences for them professionally/personally but is dealing with unemployment harder than killing other people when you feel it’s to bad ends? You’re willing to get shot at by foreigners for what your superiors order you to do but you shouldn’t have to deal with some one from your own country opposing you verbally? WTF?
That’s just my little rant against that bullshit phrase. It’s not a comment on our war or your war, just that you can’t agree with somebody having a job doing something with which you disagree. That’s bullshit.
April 28, 2008, 5:19 p.m. CST
Spandau- I understand your frustration
But let me clear something up- The military as a whole, and specifically the men and women who join the armed forces do so to serve their country. The military serves the interests of the government, which, in a democratic society, serves the interests of the people. If you ultimately have a problem with what a soldier is doing, know that he or she is doing it IN YOUR NAME. It is not a soldier’s job to write policy, or even question it. It is a soldier’s job to follow orders, and unless you think that your country is a complete failure in terms of the principles of democracy, you have to acknowledge that it is a noble thing to volunteer to serve your country. You have a problem with the orders being given? You are personally complicit in the nature of those orders, moreso than the soldier. Soldiers do have a choice, but the role of the soldier is a unique one, their set of rights are subject to their level of involvement with the military. If you refuse to vote, no one’s going to arrest you. If a soldier refuses to carry out orders, he can be incarcerated, court martialed, and worse.
Ultimately, it’s your duty as a citizen to know the difference between the troops and the mission. if you don’t, you’re doing a disservice to the men and women of the armed forces. It’s not up to the soldiers where they’re deployed, or against whom. Those decisions are made by your government, and therefore, by you.
Mark Twain said: “Loyalty to your country always, loyalty to your government when they deserve it.”
April 28, 2008, 6:02 p.m. CST
You’re barking up the wrong tree my Canadian friend (I assume you’re Canadian, right?). Go after the politicians who send your troops to Afghanistan and not the troops themselves.
April 28, 2008, 6:24 p.m. CST
vern, where’s the talkback on Seagalology?
already pre-ordered that shit on Amazon, and we’re promoting the hell out of it on my website, tastybooze.com
congrats to you sir!
April 28, 2008, 10:01 p.m. CST
Oh look! Its another movie about people making $$$ from war!
And who are these people? Hollywood producers of course!
April 28, 2008, 10:39 p.m. CST
Something tells me this movie isn’t your average run-of-the-mill studio cash-cow.
Also, if your point is that companies like Halliburton are connected not-too-subtly with the architects of the war (and who’s shareholders and CEO’s make obcene amounts of cash through no-bid contracts for reconstruction), and that puts them on the same morally bankrupt level as Hollywood ‘execs’ who, uh, make movies ABOUT such actions, I think we can all agree that you’re a fucking idiot. That’s assuming this was your point. If not, please forgive me.
April 28, 2008, 11:18 p.m. CST
You make good points, particularly that this war-for-profit problem is here to stay and will continue to be a problem after this war is over (should be any day now, I bet). So I think you’re right. I would’ve rather seen it earlier but it is still an important issue. And like I said it’s a pretty good movie.
April 28, 2008, 11:20 p.m. CST
Thanks for the plug on your boobs blog, I appreciate it. I never thought of having a talkback for the book, that would be fun after it comes out but I don’t know.
April 29, 2008, 1:19 a.m. CST
Dr Strangelove is an unbeatable classic.
April 29, 2008, 1:28 a.m. CST
Excellent, your recommendation is appreciated.
I’ll probably just buy this one, I can’t imagine it won’t end up in the cheap bin before too long.
April 29, 2008, 2:42 a.m. CST
boobs blog, lol
hey, the bills don’t pay themselves…but I try to class it up a little here and there…congrats again…
April 29, 2008, 9:22 a.m. CST
I support the actors, but not the romance
by Spandau Belly
I guess I just can’t agree with you guys on opposing a mission but not the troops who carry it out. Unless you were raised like Jet Li in Unleashed then you have no real excuse for blindly following somebody who gives you orders.
If you’re a soldier carrying out these missions then on some level you agree with them, and if not then you’re just an asshole who’ll kill for money so I have even less admiration for you.
I get what you’re saying about blaming the politicians, and they’re definately complicit too, but who’s worse, the fool or the fool who follows him?
Plus we could just go around in circles saying the troops just follow orders from politicians, the politicians just follow lobbying from the corporations that bring their nations prosperity, the corporate guys just act on their duty to their shareholders, their shareholders are just trying to provide for their families, and once people start hiding behind their kids it’s all over. But ultimately somebody has to take a stand if they think this is wrong. I have no problem telling a guy I’m not cool with him killing people. It’s easy to blame some abstract distant politician, those people just feel like characters to us anyway. It’s hard to look at your neighbour or sibling and say “It makes me sick that you’ll kill people and destroy other countries when you don’t even see any purpose in it beyond your own paycheck or duty to your macho club.”
I guess the closest I can come to relating to your mindset is this show I watch called DEXTER. The actors playing Dexter and his sister are dating in real life and I find that yicky for some reason. I know on the show they’re even playing adoptive brother and sister but still. So I support the actors in their portrayal of brother and sister but not the romance.
April 29, 2008, 1:44 p.m. CST
Spandau, You miss the point.
It isn’t some abstract concept to point to where the responsibility lies. As a civilization, we haven’t evolved past a need for soldiers, any more than we’ve evolved past a need for cops. Sure, cops do shitty things sometimes, they shoot unarmed black kids and beat people up for no good reason, but when your house gets robbed, who do you call?
A soldier’s role is to serve, not to kill, and not to die. If a soldier kills, he or she does so in service to their country. This is not some ‘abstract’ rationalization or apology, this is the role of a soldier in your society. I, like you, have a huge problem with the wars being fought right now, and I could get into all kinds of reasons why I believe they are illegitimate, obscene, tragic, disgraceful, etc., but I don’t blame the soldier, any more than I would blame the bullet for a murder.
Also, you might want to consider that the demographic that is being unrelentingly pursued for recruitment by the military are teenage boys, usually from underprivileged corners of the country. If you’re 18, with no prospects, not much chance for a college education, and a piss-poor public education under your belt, joining the army is a way out and a way up. You might not have any first-hand experience knowing what it’s like to have no future, but you probably do know what it was like to be 18, assuming you’re even there yet. You never made any mistakes when you were 18? You weren’t naive or gullible enough to believe some line, or fall for some pitch when you were that young?
It’s a complex issue, and I doubt you have the right to pass judgement on an entire group of people who you may consider ‘fools’ for calling themselves patriots, who believe that a citizen has a duty to his country, but you’d have to be a complete asshole to think that every soldier who signs up does it because they want to shoot people and get paid for it. Those assholes are called mercenaries, and there are plenty of them around these days for you to mouth off at.
Spandau, the simple fact that your only way to ‘relate’ to this issue is through some sitcom tells me more about you than you’d probably like. You have no way of knowing how privileged you are, because that is one of the luxuries the privileged enjoy- ignorance.
April 29, 2008, 6:19 p.m. CST
samsquanch, before I sit down to enjoy my evening ignorance
by Spandau Belly
Since you want to make all sorts of assumptions about my life, I guess I’ll fill you in some actual facts. I did grow up in a shitty neighbourhood, most of the kids I went to school with as a kid are now in jail or live crappy lives with drug problems. However when I got to be a teenager my family was doing better and we got to move to a better nieghbourhood and I went to a nice yuppie high school. I have an okay life and with some prospects, but that’s because I worked for them. I wasn’t handed any dreamlife, but I won’t complain.
I do know lots of guys who joined the army because they’re macho assholes who heard it was a good party, a good pay check and you get good pussy for being a man in uniform. Maybe I’m being cynical or “ignorant” as you call it, but it feels like this is a good representation of the guys who join. And in a that way we agree, you acknowledge that the recruiting targets weakminded young guys and selling them a smooth line. But maybe they wouldn’t fall for the smooth line if more people voiced that they thought it wasn’t cool to be part of this war. And they are part of this war, the most important part.
I acknowledge to a certain degree that these soldiers are manipulated, but they’re still adults with reason and free will and as far as I’m concerned accountable for their actions as much as the rest of us (and that includes political leaders).
May 17, 2008, 7:12 p.m. CST
this movie sucked. here’s a better (honest) review: eattheblinds.blogspot.com
Feb. 15, 2010, 3:26 a.m. CST
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Feb. 15, 2010, 3:26 a.m. CST
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VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.