Impassioned lefties John Cusack, cult novelist Mark Leyner, and Bulworth scribe Jeremy Pikser co-wrote this ineffectual Iraq War farce, which challenges the corrupt military-industrial complex and privatization with such an embarrassingly generic, dated, fish-in-a-barrel aplomb that it's no wonder David Mamet denounced his former life as a "brain-dead liberal." Flatly directed and poorly timed by Joshua Seftel, the film stars Cusack as a Tabasco-chugging assassin in the thinly disguised Middle-Eastern country of Turaqistan, working incognito as a trade-show producer while on assignment for a Halliburton-like corporation (sideways-growling Dan Aykroyd standing in for Cheney and all), which has hired him to kill an oil minister. It's certainly more audacious than your typical Cusack vehicle, which might've been fine if Naomi Klein's ideas on disaster capitalism—a major inspiration for the project—hadn't been filtered through an atonal jumble of quasi-Strangelovean histrionics, absurdist slapstick, sudden melodrama, and violent action, and then still offered as pointed or relevant criticism. (Democracy Light cigarettes, Golden Palace Casino ads on tanks, war-amputee Rockettes, and Hilary Duff as a Central European pop tart named Yonica Babyyeah...does any of this deserve such a smug, moralizing tone?) Anti-war, anti-Bush, anti-corporate, yet neither as progressive nor half as funny as the Harold and Kumar sequel, War, Inc. squanders some top-tier talent (Marisa Tomei, Sir Ben Kingsley) as well as our patience.
Duff proves war ain't all hell.
Opens at Seven Gables and Uptown, Fri., June 13. Rated R. 107 minutes.