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War, Inc.

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This 2008 movie hits all my buttons for a satire. Some might call it a black comedy. Directed by Joshua Seftel, it was written by Mark Leyner, Jeremy Pikser, and John Cusack. It stars John Cusack, Joan Cusack, Hillary Duff, Marisa Tomei, Ben Kingsley, and Dan Akroyd.

The gist of the movie is that hit man Hauser (played by John Cusack) has been assigned to assassinate the president of some middle eastern country with a made up name. The satire begins when Hauser lands there. The country is being run by an American corporation called Tamerlane. All the occupying soldiers are Tamerlane mercenaries, the equipment is owned by Tamerlane (which sells ads on the sides of its tanks, by the way), and the country basically is occupied by the corporation. Everyone gets a Tamerlane corporate gift bag, including a book entitled "How I Conquered the World and Dealt with Issues with my Father."

I won't go into how well the movie nails corporate scumbaggery, occupation by corporate alter egos, and the like. It nails it. Joan Cusack is brilliant. The commercialization of the war in this godforsaken country is funny, and "War, Inc." spoofs all those dumb action movies where the action hero's wife is killed and his daughter is kidnapped: it happened to Hauser twenty years ago, and he has no clue who did it or why or where his daughter is. And he does nothing about it. Nothing.

For some reason, "War, Inc." didn't get a great release and was quickly shunted to DVD. (No conspiracies here, though, about corporations censoring the movie.) It got seriously bad reviews. (Of course, there were no corporations putting the kibosh on it, making newspapers require bad reviews from their critics.) I'm not sure what the reason was. I think it's a great movie; see it with a decent sound system for all the booms.

On another note, I see this movie as the final film in a Cusack trilogy. My suggestion is that it starts with "Say Anything," where Cusack is paired with Iona Skye. Dobler is a high school grad with nothing going for him. Released in 1989, in "Say Anything" our hero's goal in life is maybe to open a gym and be a kick boxer. Skye plays Dobler's love interest, Diane Court, who's the school's valedictorian on her way to college and a life of brainy success. It has that iconic scene where Dobler stands outside her window holding the boombox over his head as it plays "In Your Eyes."

My alternate universe point of view is that Lloyd Dobler went from being a kick boxer to being Martin Q. Blank in "Grosse Pointe Blank." Blank, of course, is a professional assassin who goes to his high school reunion to see his old high school flame (played by Minnie Driver). In "Grosse Pointe Blank" Joan Cusack plays his totally over the top secretary, and Dan Akroyd plays another assassin. Alan Arkin plays Blank's psychiatrist, and those scenes are fabulous. Blank has been assigned a hit during the time of his reunion, and we get to see a lot of conflict as Blank meets his old friends who've led boringly normal lives while he's been killing people.

In "War, Inc." Cusack plays a character named Hauser, Joan Cusack plays his totally over the top assistant, and Dan Akroyd plays a vice president. Instead of an analyst, Hauser has "GuideStar," a disembodied voice to talk him through his several problems based apparently on GM's navigation service. (Bill Cusack, brother of John and Joan, plays the "overcaffeinated" soldier delivering the dry-cleaning in "War, Inc.," by the way, and a waiter in "Grosse Pointe Blank.")

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