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Casualties of War

Movies | Star-studded satire veers off course in its critique of Bush policy

Issue: "Ethiopia's new flower," May 31, 2008

If the makers of War, Inc. knew what they hated about U.S. foreign policy, they would have had a much easier time satirizing it. As it stands, this John Cusack vehicle lobs so many haphazard political bombs at the Bush administration that it is left standing in a pile of rubble by the end.

Replete with large-scale explosions, political intrigue, and assassination plots, War, Inc. (rated R for violence, language, and brief sexual material) lampoons the world's first totally outsourced war. Cusack plays hit man Brand Hauser, sent to Turaqistan to kill a Middle Eastern oil tycoon so that the Tamerlane Corporation can solidify its monopoly status in the area.

Posing as a trade show producer, Cusack must supervise the performance of Middle Eastern starlet Yonica Babyyeah (Hilary Duff) while managing the one person who could bring this behemoth display of American braggadocio crashing down-a sexy liberal journalist played with the mussed hair charms of Marisa Tomei.

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A political satire along the lines of Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove or Christopher Buckley's Thank You For Smoking, War, Inc. wants to make adept critiques of our overburdened, overreaching attempts to spread democracy worldwide, but resembles more a poorly thought-out military campaign without an exit strategy.

Cusack, who wrote and produced the film, puts in a reliable performance, but unlike his similar role in Grosse Point Blank, this hit man with a heart of gold is not navigating a terrain that can be resolved by the pursuit of an attractive love interest. An able cast helps him in his efforts, but even Joan Cusack and Ben Kingsley have their limits-Kingsley may be many things, but a swaggering Texas CIA agent he is not.

The outcome of everything at play here represents only one thing-wishful thinking on the part of an overactive liberal imagination.

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