War, Inc. vs. Postal

“War, Inc.” Cast:
John Cusack as Brand Hauser
Joan Cusack as Marsha Dillon
Marisa Tomei as Natalie Hegalhuzen
Hilary Duff as Yonica Babyyeah
Ben Kingsley as Walken
Dan Aykroyd as The Vice President
Ned Bellamy as Zubleh / Ooq-Yu-Fay Taqnufmini
Shirly Brener as Hauser’s Wife
Ben Cross as Medusa Hair
Doug Dearth as Geoff
Lyubomir Neikov as Omar
Rachel O’Meara as Implanted Reporter
Sergej Trifunovic as Ooq-Mi-Fay Taqnufmini
Montel Williams as GuideStar
George Zlatarev as Director

Directed by Joshua Seftel

“Postal” Cast:
Zack Ward as Postal Dude
Dave Foley as Uncle Dave
Chris Coppola as Richard
Jackie Tohn as Faith
J.K. Simmons as Candidate Wells
Ralf Moeller as Officer John
Verne Troyer as Himself / Voice of Krotchy
Chris Spencer as Officer Greg
Larry Thomas as Osama bin Laden
Michael Paré as Panhandler
Erick Avari as Habib
Lindsay Hollister as Recorder
Brent Mendenhall as George W. Bush
Rick Hoffman as Blither
Michael Benyaer as Mohammed

Directed by Uwe Boll

Analysis:
While most people will be having barbeques or going to see one of the big summer blockbusters or another over Memorial Day weekend, we’re in a nation that’s so politically-inclined that it’s more than slightly appropriate that there’s not one but two offerings this weekend that take a cynical look at U.S. politics from two very different perspectives. Political humor and satire is tough, it rarely works as well as intended nor can it possibly appeal to everyone, and yet, many filmmakers and screenwriters have successfully captured the political climate in the country to remarkable success. This week’s offerings come from an outspoken openly liberal actor and a reclusive German director, and hopefully one of them had good intentions when tackling this material, even if both fail on many levels.

Spearheaded by actor John Cusack (who also co-produced and co-wrote the film), “War, Inc.” is a straight political satire about how the war in Iraq has been co-opted and commercialized by corporations turning it into big business. Cusack is Tabasco-chugging hitman Brand Hauser, a character cut from the same cloth as Martin Blank who is sent to an unnamed Middle East country to kill an oil leader named “Omar Shariff”—about par for the film’s level of humor—under the cover of producing a corporate trade show. Once there, Hauser finds himself caught in a love triangle between a liberal reporter played by Marisa Tomei and an Asian sexpot pop star played by Hilary Duff. As he navigates the war-torn climate to prepare for the televised wedding of the latter, he tries to come to terms with his own troubled past and how he ended up in his current situation.

Cusack and his collaborators approach the material from a point of intelligence but despite the film’s tongue-in-cheek nature, it’s never really funny, throwing a lot of ideas into the mix and creating a convoluted story that’s probably too smart for its own good if not smart enough for those who might be looking for political humor. Amidst all the wry sight gags, there’s a subtle attempt at creating a character arc with depth ala “Grosse Point Blank,” but it’s overshadowed by the ridiculous nature of the plotline.

If “War Inc.” is as disastrous an effort as “American Dreamz,” then “Postal” is on par with Richard Kelly’s “Southland Tales,” a mess of ideas with no purpose except to anger and offend. Whereas most of Uwe Boll’s serious action-thrillers were laughably bad, with “Postal,” he actually tries to be funny and fails miserably by overfilling the movie with offensive in-your-face material that’s not likely to win Boll many more fans. You know you’re in trouble when “Postal” opens with a 9/11 gag of the terrorists flying one of the planes quibbling about their deal, and it’s only after they rescind on their contract with Allah to take the plane to the Bahamas when passengers storm their cabin and force the place to crash into the World Trade Center.

Boll’s nameless protagonist, played by Zack Ward, is a loser who can’t get a break and can’t get a job, living in a trailer park with an obese abusive wife who cheats on him with the white trash neighbors, a situations that falls somewhere between “My Name Is Earl” and “Pink Flamingos” without being as funny as the former or as shocking as the latter. His lack of employment is what leads him to his uncle, a fanatic cult leader played by Dave Foley, and a plot to get rich, that puts them into conflict with Osama bin Laden and his Al Quaeda faction in hiding.

The entire movie feels like Boll was looking for an outlet to rail against everything in the world that bothered him, from those who can’t make up their mind while ordering at Starbuck’s to ***hole bosses, but there’s a level to the humor that could easily be compared to Mike Judge’s films. Even so, Boll tries too hard to offend, the worst part coming from a pair of racist policemen, one who shoots an old lady in the head claiming she called him the “N-word,” and later, having a grotesque three-way with the protagonist’s wife that’s sure to put off anyone left in the audience.

Boll’s always impressed with his star-studded casts but his karma at getting decent actors to act out his awful scripts has finally run his course and yet Ward is a suitable protagonist, who does a surprisingly good job getting us on his side with the unenviable task of carrying such a rotten movie. Who knows what former “Kid in the Hall” Dave Foley was thinking with his portrayal of a religious cult leader, using it as an excuse to be as rude and offensive as possible, whether he’s feeling up his bosomy cadre of stripper bodyguards or flashing his tackle before taking a disgusting on-camera dump.

Even “Austin Powers” sidekick Verne Troyer seems to be lowering his standards to appear as himself, although there’s something amusing about seeing Larry Thomas, the “Soup Nazi from Seinfeld,” playing Osama bin Laden. The film’s oddest moment comes when Uwe Boll shows up as himself, confirming rumors of funding his movie with Nazi gains and denouncing video games, all done with a wink and a smile, although one thinks that it’s done for the sake of the people who have been burned enough by Boll’s incompetence as a filmmaker that they wouldn’t see the movie to laugh with him rather than at him.

Even though he’s never been particularly credible as an action star, Cusack has a much better cast in his film, only making it that much more painful. Once again, Sir Ben Kingsley embarrasses himself with a scenery-chewing performance in a bad accent, this time as Hauser’s former CIA boss. His role is fairly small compared to the others, and few will expect much from Hilary Duff, playing out-of-character (and out of her league) as a dim-witted sex-crazed teen singer, sporting an even worse accent than Sir Ben. As grueling as her scenes with Ned Bellamy may be, they’re not quite as tragic as seeing fine actresses like Tomei and Cusack’s sister Joan succumbing to the same over-acting bug as others as they try to make more out of the weak material.

“Postal” isn’t nearly as incompetent a film as Boll’s past efforts, although it often loses the flimsy plot and deteriorates into a shoot-’em-up with a ridiculously high body count. The make-up effects used to show people getting shot or blown up aren’t bad, but there’s just too much irony that after making movies bad enough to cause ruptured organs from laughter, Boll would make a comedy that isn’t even remotely funny.

The Bottom Line:
While one probably can’t recommend either of these movies to anyone they even remotely liked, “War, Inc.” is only slightly better by the fact that it has some modicum of intelligence behind it, even if most of its clever ideas fall short due to the bad writing and awful performances across the board. “Postal” is almost worth watching because it’s so unbelievably abysmal that you can’t believe any filmmaker, let alone one as hated as Dr. Boll, would deliberately make light of such subjects in order to shock and offend.

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