I’m working from a different definition of “independent,” which explains the quotes. The Contract went straight to video; War, Inc. did not have a wide release. Both movies were panned by the critics, making this Jack Black quote from High Fidelity more poignant:
“… is it in fact unfair to criticize a formerly great artist for his latter day sins … ?”
This is not to say that Cusack is a “formerly” great artist. I think Hot Tub Time Machine proved that, as did a relatively strong showing in an otherwise laughable film, 2012. However, when these two movies were released it seemed to signal a steady downward spiral for dear, sweet John. Now that he’s past that, maybe it’s time to look back.
So, which film is better? And by “better,” I mean “more watchable and enjoyable”?
The Contract puts Cusack as a widower trying to reconnect with his son through camping. Along the way, they run into Morgan Freeman, an assassin who is in custody. Through serendipitous events, Cusack takes charge of the prisoner, but later must decide how best to get Freeman to the authorities while not getting killed by other henchmen. Sound exciting? Variety called it an “underwhelming opus [that] appears to be in its natural habitat on a TV screen.”
War, Inc. got some buzz because of its political nature, and because it seemed to extend one of Cusack’s most beloved roles: Martin Blank from Grosse Pointe Blank. Oh, sure, he wasn’t Martin … but we all imagined it, didn’t we? It also had a top-notch cast (including Marisa Tomei, Joan Cusack, Dan Akroyd, Hillary Duff, and Ben Kingsley). Cusack is a hitman posing as a trade show producer looking to murder an oil company CEO in an otherwise war-torn country. Rotten Tomatoes notes that the film “attempts to satirize the military industrial complex, but more often than not it misses its target.”
So, vote now. This, by the way, is a companion Cusack film poll to this one.