“War, Inc.” is one of those satires that sometimes works well but most of the time is a drag to sit through, not unlike an acidic “Head of State” or “Canadian Bacon.” With John Cusack in the lead as an assassin, it’s hard not to make comparisons to his similar role in “Grosse Point Blank,” but he’s on autopilot here: His is a somnambulant performance at best, sleepwalking through the proceedings like he’s nursing a hangover and can barely be bothered to show up for his scenes. With a comedic cypher in the lead it’s up to the supporting cast to do the heavy lifting, but no one seems particularly comfortable with the material. In particular, Ben Kingsley is god-awful as the Viceroy, acting like he’s in an amateur production instead of a legitimate movie, while poor Hilary Duff is saddled with a degrading, thankless role that she tackles bravely with no payoff. Marisa Tomei does her best as the only believable character around, but her warmth and earnestness only serve to highlight how much of it is lacking elsewhere. Some of the gags are amusing (in particular, be sure to pay attention to political signs and war propaganda in the background, which carry some of the screenplay’s best jokes), but most of them are too blunt and aggressive to be funny, and a sizable portion of them are witless to the point where you wonder if they were added as afterthoughts at the last minute. It’s not terrible overall, but it never convinces you that it’s worth watching.
Rating: ★★ (out of 5)