Famous fictional characters frequently have vices. Bond has shaken martinis. Kojak has lollipops. Dr. House has Vicodin and ceaseless griping. Brand Hauser, a super-slick but moralistic hit man, has hot sauce. Lots of it. He downs capsaicin like some men take Tums. Not that Hauser is all that famous or memorable. But intermittent shot glasses of liquid fire cause him to remember his otherwise suppressed, brutal past.
The fever-juice-induced flashbacks show him petitioning Walken, a long-ago boss, for freedom to shirk the killing business and live a normal life—one that involves marriage and family. Walken, however, has a secret that Hauser can’t accept, and his bitterness pits him against Hauser, with napalm-like fallout.
The haunted hit man’s present isn’t very cool, either. Hauser has been tasked by private U.S. military complex, Tamerlane, to assassinate oil minister Omar Sharif (who is not played by the actor of the same name) and monopolize American control of resources in Turaqistan (read: satirized Iraq). But Hauser still struggles with conscience. He feels he’s like the “morally inverted, twisted” antihero from a nihilistic novel, but he does Tamerlane’s bidding, posing as director of the company’s trade show expo for deep cover.
His involvement will culminate not only in death (lots of it), but the much-publicized wedding of outrageous and heavily accented Yonika Babyyeah, the “Britney Spears of Central Asia.”
Hauser isn’t prepared for the eerie fatherly pull he feels toward the streaky-haired, foulmouthed, oversexed pop star: He strongly dislikes her relationship with the turbaned, foulmouthed, oversexed and abusive fiancé. Nor does Hauser bargain for sexy journalist Natalie Hegalhuzen, who dogs him as she strives to unmask corporate greed and unearth political scandal—and steal an occasional, passionate kiss.
Jerry, the disembodied voice of Hauser’s navigational “GuideStar” service, offers sometimes reasonable advice in response to his client’s multiple woes. For example, he says Hauser should feel emotion and pray.
Though he doesn’t quite understand why, Hauser cares about indecent Yonika’s wellbeing and behavior. He resists her sexual advances and is even physically repulsed by them. He calls her a “sad little girl” who’s been forced into a lifestyle of sexual exhibitionism. Once, when she is uncharacteristically reflective, he affirms and comforts her.
In a rare candid moment, Hauser shares his past with Yonika and Hegalhuzen, telling them about his wife’s senseless death and daughter’s kidnapping. The three sit around a dining table and seem like a family of sorts. (Well, for about two seconds.)
Between hot sauce hits, Hauser ruminates on his desire to leave the killing biz. After all, he only wants to kill bad guys, but he’s been offing a lot of the good ones lately, too, and he feels bad about that. He also comments on how nice Hegalhuzen’s honesty must be. She looks beyond Hauser’s tough-guy facade, saying, “There’s gotta be a person in there somewhere.” When Yonika thinks she has no friends, Hegalhuzen volunteers to be her bridesmaid.
Despite her sexpot image, Yonika is still traumatized when she learns that her hubby-to-be is planning to sell a pornographic video of their wedding night.
[Spoiler Warning] Hauser doesn’t fulfill his mission to kill Sharif. Instead, he helps the man escape.
Hauser orders his staff to position the expo’s stage so that Turaqistanis don’t have to turn their backs to it when they pray five times a day. He tells Hegalhuzen that the day he and others actually feel all the suffering they’re causing in Turaqistan will be the day “the Christ” returns. Hauser also says he’s “looking for redemption in all the wrong places.”
Hauser asks Yonika why she “talks as if she has no soul.” Yonika tells him no one cares for her soul and laments the fact that people just want her body.
There’s an interfaith clergyman at the wedding. The lyrics “Are you washed in the blood of the lamb” are sung as background music during an especially violent war scene. Making a toast, a U.S. (ex) vice president says, “Good luck and God bless, whoever that God may be.” People at the wedding are addressed as “believers and infidels.”
Yonika, offended by Hauser’s complete lack of sexual attraction to her, is set on seducing him. Slinking onto his desk, she gyrates around lap-dance-style in revealing clothing. She also tempts him by offering a “massage” and by licking a gas hose nozzle to try to titillate him. Kudos to him, he responds by vomiting. Later, as crowds watch, Yonika puts a scorpion down her pants, gasping seductively as the arachnid scurries around below. Her fiancé gropes her to fish it out.
Belly dancing is common entertainment, with women revealing bare midriffs and buxom chests. Yonika, too, shimmies provocatively in scanty attire as she sings, surrounded by bare-chested beefcakes. Her song lyrics use wordplay to suggest oral sex.
Hauser and Hegalhuzen snog from time to time, as do Yonika and her fiancé. Hegalhuzen asks if Hauser is sleeping with Yonika.
The opening scene depicts Hauser shooting three men point-blank through the head. The camera shows one man’s jellied face falling into his dinner. Then we see it again as Hauser yanks it up by the hair to take a close-up digital picture. A man is beaten with a baseball bat. Flashbacks show Hauser shooting, double-fisted, at people offscreen. He also engages in several hand-to-hand battles, and blood gushes as he graphically slices flesh with knives, pokes through someone’s skull with a corkscrew and wreaks a lot of other bodily havoc on a lot of people. In one shot we’re shown Hauser biting off an attacker’s finger. Then we’re shown a victim’s mangled eyes and cheeks close up. A man is crushed in a garbage compactor.
Yonika’s fiancé smacks the back of her head when she says something that displeases him. And in a “lighter” vein, he shoots himself in the derriere. There’s also banter about removing someone’s testicles as punishment.
Because this is an attempt to spoof war … there’s a lot of war. Numerous missiles are fired and machine guns shot. In a darkened scene that feels and looks like something from Saving Private Ryan, we’re shown a city under fiery attack. Bombs explode, light up the night and shower debris. Buildings crumble on impact. Hauser and Hegalhuzen run for their lives as civilian crowds get mown down.
About 50 f-words (quite a few of them coming from Yonika; one of them tattooed across a man’s back; several used sexually) and 30 s-words. God’s and Jesus’ names are forcefully abused a total of 10 or so times. An obscene reference and gesture evoke male anatomy and oral sex. Milder words include “a–,” “d–n,” “b–ch” and “b–tard.” Racial slurs target Germans and Arabs.
War, Inc. begins in a bar, and it would seem that some of these characters live there. We regularly see wineglasses and hear invitations to get drinks. Yonika’s fiancé staggers into a room so drunk he keels over and passes out. Nightclubs are an oasis for war-torn personalities, and alcohol flows like water through Turaqistan. Some smoke cigarettes, Yonika and Hegalhuzen included. But it’s the seemingly hallucinogenic hot sauce that is Hauser’s drug of choice.
Yonika, believing her lot in life is to be sleazy, says that if she’s a whore, at least she “can be a rich whore.” In an attempt to cover up the porn video scandal, a fall guy is chosen and tortured with 100 gallons of sheep manure. (We hear about this.) Hegalhuzen is kidnapped by videographers who are trying to make a snuff tape of her. Soldiers are depicted as little more than half-crazy adrenaline junkies. Life is described as a “slow-motion suicide.”
While sitting on a toilet, the (ex) vice president graphically comments on his bodily functions.
Trying to do for armed conflict what Thank You for Smoking does for cigarettes, this satire-turned-melodrama and black comedy can’t decide what it wants to be when it grows up. Honestly. Picking a genre would be helpful. I felt artificially jerked between this incendiary melee’s tender moments, Armageddon-like conflagrations, scathingly sarcastic wit, and pungent attacks on the U.S. government and its leaders. War, Inc.‘s attempt to send up America’s “ceaseless, epic struggle to dominate” flops on its face as a filthy, jaded, gratuitous mess.
And this is the movie former Disney darling Hilary Duff chose as her R-rated coming-out party. Lizzie McGuire no more, she’s happily laying waste to her innocent image by becoming onscreen the “vixen virgin” (or, as John Cusack puts it, the “real slutty pop star”) that she’s largely shunned in her own singing career. Once, she condoned purity and modesty, calling girls who wear risqué outfits “immature.” Here, she clearly lives down to her own criticism.
When asked if she is worried about her fans’—and fans’ parents’—response to lascivious character Yonika, Duff says in an interview with CBS’ ShowBuzz, “I was when I was filming it, and now I think I’m over it. I have to make myself happy, and I have to do things that challenge me in my work. … [That character is] not who I am in real life, that’s not the persona that I have.”
I don’t think it’s that simple.