I've been on a mini John Cusack kick of late, with another viewing of Grosse Pointe Blank, and High Fidelity (both bloody great films I've seen a few times over the years now), and so I sought out this 'ere War, Inc. as it's been oft-trumpetted as the 'spiritual successor to Grosse Pointe Blank'.
Well, all that really means is that there are a bunch of similarities - they both have John Cusack playing an assassin who wants out of the business, who has a secretary in the form of Joan Cusack ... they also both have Dan Ackroyd popping in now and then, and such like.
However, beyond that, they're not the same. Grosse Pointe Blank is a quirky black comedy, him being an assassin is almost neither here nor there, what the movie is really about is the high school 10 year reunion. It's a great 80s nostalgia movie, it's a rom-com (of sorts, at times) with the addedd benefit of genuinely funny jokes and some nice snippets of action.
War, Inc. on the other hand, is a rather blunt 'in the future' and thinly veiled critique of the Iraq war. Right there, it suffers. While yes, it is funny to see tanks with sponsorship for gambling websites plastered all over them ramble around war torn streets ... it's just that it's all so blunt. Is it a serious allegory for modern American warfare, or is it a piss-take? Which is it? It feels like both at the same time, and it never really pulls off either. Add in thinly-written side plots involving a reporter and Hilary Duff, and you've about got this movie.
John Cusack is always a joy to watch - which is the only reason why I'll eventually see 2012 ... oh okay, fine, that and all the big things falling over ... (ditto for an expressive Joan), it's just a shame he (and the others) have been let down by the material which feels scattergun and unsure of it's tone throughout - not to mention blunt, very blunt ... did I mention it was blunt yet? Well yes, it's bloody blunt alright.
At times the production budget does feel stretched, which is also a shame.
Grosse Pointe Blank had a very clear vision and a very clear style - War, Inc. has neither of those things and suffers because of them. There are laughs to be had amongst it all, and a "two Cusacks" movie is always worth watching, but apart from that the movie has not a lot going for it.
Just watch Grosse Pointe Blank again, really ... then High Fidelity again ... because those movies are both awesome sauce.