American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
"War, Inc." is a brave and ambitious but chaotic attempt at political satire. The targets: the war in Iraq, and the shadowy role of Vice President Dick Cheney's onetime corporate home Halliburton in the waging of the war. Dan Aykroyd plays an "ex-vice president," unmistakably Cheney, issuing orders to CIA hit man Brand Hauser (John Cusack) to assassinate a Middle Eastern oil minister named Omar Sharif (not much of a joke), whose plans to build a pipeline in his country run counter to the schemes of the super corporation Tamerlane.
Hauser is an intriguing character, seen chugging shot glasses of hot sauce for reasons that are no doubt as significant as they are obscure. "I feel like a refugee from the island of Dr. Moreau," he confides at one point to the onboard computer on his private plane, a sort of sympathetic HAL 9000. Arriving in the country of Turaqistan, he finds warfare raging everywhere, except within a protected area known as the Emerald City, for which of course we are to read Baghdad's Green Zone. Here American corporations are so entrenched that Hauser reaches the secret bunker of the Viceroy (a Tamerlane puppet) through a Popeye's Fried Chicken store.
That sort of satire runs through the movie, which is neither quite serious nor quite funny, but very busy with trying to be one or the other. Lots of other brand names (in addition to Brand Hauser) appear in connection with an expo being staged by public relations whiz Marsha Dillon (Joan Cusack), who becomes Hauser's cynical adviser. Among her plan for the expo: The televised wedding of Middle Eastern pop superstar Yonica Babyyeah (Hilary Duff, but you won't recognize her).
Arriving in Turaqistan about the same time as Hauser is Natalie Hegalhuzen (Marisa Tomei), a reporter for liberal magazines, whose character and others in the film illustrate my First Law of Funny Names, which teaches us that they are rarely funny. She is a warm, pretty woman who quickly appeals to Hauser, already having second thoughts about his hit-man role. She's smart, too, with an occasional tendency to talk like she's writing (she describes Yonica as "a sad little girl who's been pimped out into a pathetic monstrosity of Western sexuality").
At the ripe age of 89, Oscar can still be a notoriously picky fellow when it comes to what constitutes a contender fo...