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John Cusack's roles follow the life of one man.

This one man is living out a Choose Your Own Adventure on film.

Can you seriously look at the characters he's played in Better Off Dead, Say Anything, and High Fidelity, and tell me he's not playing the same character at different points in his life? There's not that much in terms of background story that distinguishes these characters. Sure, names change, and some events differ (or are perhaps omitted), but Cusack's characters in these are all quirky, charming guys with overactive imaginations, a self deprecating sense of humour, and a romantic (if sometimes jaded) view of dating and dealing with the opposite sex; all with the same diction, and the same good looks. With a little work, we can even include his appearance in 16 Candles as one of Anthony Michael Hall's nerdy buddies as a prelude to this guy's later adventures.

If this character had walked a slightly different road out of high school (say, missing out on his last big date with his high school sweetheart), instead of being in High Fidelity, he would find himself in Grosse Point Blank, starring John Cusack as a troubled assassin (with his sister, Joan Cusack, playing his secretary, Dan Akroyd in a supporting role, and music from Joe Strummer). And if that had ended differently, we would later see the same man in War, Inc, starring John Cusack as an older troubled assassin (with his sister, Joan Cusack, playing his secretary, Dan Akroyd in a supporting role, and music from Joe Strummer).

A number of critics have dismissed this newest chapter in the saga (roughly) as convoluted, confused, lacking direction, and unable to decide between seriousness, satire, or spoof. I think Cusack's just getting back to his roots. War, Inc. is closer in approach to Better Off Dead than anything he's done since One Crazy Summer. It's just the violent, adult, war time version of those early comedies.

I'm sure Cusack can play other characters. He's been in a lot of movies, and I haven't seen many of them. I'm also ignoring some of his lesser efforts. But, this repeated portrayal is at least a small case of whatever it is Gary Cooper and Tom Cruise had. --You know, that thing where each one of their movies just seems like an opportunity to see what it would be like if, say, Tom Cruise were a 200 year old vampire, or a pool hustler, or a drunken Civil War vet forced to go to Japan.-- Or perhaps more like Clint Eastwood in a western or cop flick.

Not that I'm complaining. I like these movies.


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