War, Inc. (2008)

(In theaters, September 2008) Sharing political outlooks with the film’s writers doesn’t necessarily imply that I’m more favorably predisposed to forgive the film’s increasingly annoying missteps. A mess of good intentions and weak satire, War Inc illustrated how difficult reality has become to parody: The idea of a wholly-outsourced war sponsored by big businesses isn’t that funny or outlandish, and the film flops from weak smiles to even weaker laughs. Worse is the idea to turn the film in some kind of redemptive experience for a paid assassin: it never totally works, and stops the film dead whenever time had to be spent developing this particular storyline. For a comedy, War, Inc remains curiously dull, as if the jokes were all taking place on an entirely different plane of humor, sometime intersecting with ours. The direction can’t patch to holes in this low-budget production, and the script (co-written by Mark Leyner, of all people!) clearly has no clue what to prioritize and what to leave behind. Some of the earliest laughs even come at the expense of the pictures, as it presents a fantasy version of “Iqualuit, Nunavut” that has nothing to do with the real place. The film isn’t a complete disaster thanks to good but misused actors such as John Cusak and the always-cute Marisa Tomei, but it’s a great deal less impressive than it could have been. Even the film’s leftist politics are more annoying than anything else: anti-capitalism and anti-war targets are so easy that it takes some effort to miss those targets. I may be on the picture’s political side, but is it too much to ask that the film be, at least, smart?

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