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John Cusack is an unusual Hollywood star as his popularity stems more from starring in a series of films with cult status than from being in any major Hollywood blockbusters. One of these films with a devoted cult following is the fun little hitman comedy Grosse Pointe Blank.
Co-written and co-produced by Cusack himself, this movie was overlooked upon its initial release but has gained a rabid cult following on DVD. The right mix of comedy, satire and action, Grosse Pointe Blank tells the story of a hitman who goes back to his ten year high school reunion
Why do I bring this up? Because, in some ways, John Cusack’s new movie War, Inc. can be seen as a sort of unofficial sequel to Grosse Pointe Blank. Once again, Cusack plays the role of a hitman unhappy with his work. This time, he’s sent to the country of Turaqistan to assassinate an uncooperative Middle Eastern oil minister. He’s given the cover of being a trade show producer where he falls in love with a political journalist played by Marisa Tomei while overseeing the wedding of an outrageous pop star played by Hilary Duff.
War, Inc. shares a lot in common with its predecessor Grosse Pointe Blank starting with its cast. John Cusack’s sister Joan is cast as the hitman’s assistant/liason in a role very similar to the role she played in Grosse Pointe Blank while Dan Akryod plays a caricature of Vice President Dick Cheney.
But more than just it’s cast, War, Inc. shares many of the same setups and situations as Grosse Pointe Blank. For example, in Grosse Pointe Blank Cusack’s character often talks to a psychiatrist on the phone for advice to work out his problems. In War, Inc., Cusack’s character talks to a Movie-Fone like advice service in his plane or car to work out his problems. There are many scenes that are lifted directly from Grosse Pointe Blank and reused here in this movie
At it’s core, War, Inc. is a dark political satire that targets not only America’s unpopular war in Iraq, but also the privatization of the war and the opportunistic commercialization and marketing of America’s brands and culture to the world.
But you never quite connect with the characters. Instead, the movie is more like an exercise in intellectual political satire where the banter is witty but the plot is predictable. And while there are many fun moments in the movie including a sex tease involving Hilary Duff and a scorpion, the movie lacks the playful spirit and tone of Grosse Pointe Blank and doesn’t have the heart of that earlier film. That’s not to say that War, Inc. isn’t enjoyable in parts, but it misses the mark as a whole.
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