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Jane: Don't fall for it, Jack.
Jack: Fall for what?
Jane: For the lie we keep telling ourselves. We do the dirty stuff to get the power. It'll give us all the good things we really want. Then we get the power, we can't even remember what goddamn thing it was we wanted it for in the first place.

A 1985 satirical Black Comedy film written and directed by Ken Finkleman, featuring an All-Star Cast including Judge Reinhold, Eddie Albert, Richard Masur, Rick Moranis, Jane Seymour, Wallace Shawn, and Danny DeVito.

Jack Issel (Reinhold) is an earnest young business-school graduate who's just started working for I.N.C. Corporation in Chicago. There he finds himself surrounded by crazy and often morally-bankrupt characters, while falling in love with Rachel (Lori-Nan Engler), the daughter of the CEO who's a protestor against one of the company's planned shutdowns. Then there's the odd fact that he keeps being promoted without doing anything, causing him to suspect that his senator father is being buttered up by the company.

The movie contains examples of:

  • Accidental Truth: Steadman's secretary is told that he died in order for the movers to have an excuse to empty his office without much of a fuss. A little while later he actually does jump to his death due to a sense of bitterness, and having failed to save his job.
  • Adolf Hitlarious: One of the guest speakers at the morning prayer meeting just spouts German in the style of Hitler, while accepting thunderous applause like Benito Mussolini.
    Jack: (whispering) He's speaking German.
    Max: (whispering) Eh, I never listen to these guest speakers.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Nearly everyone seeking promotions (Nixon, Hudson, Al etc.) is portrayed as utterly ruthless, and constantly hurting or undermining other people to get their way. The only exceptions are Rubinovich (who hopes to be an executive by the time he's fifty but is a fairly nice guy who isn't in a hurry about getting promoted), and Jane (who is extremely ambitious and self-centered, but still has a few standards and recognizes how she's been corrupted). By contrast, Jack and Max, the most sympathetic employees, show no ambition whatsoever (not that this keeps Jack from being promoted).
  • Antagonistic Offspring: The one thing Jack and Rachel have in common, though while Jack still deep down does have some familial love (if not respect) for his father, Rachel out and out despises her Robber Baron dad.
  • At Least I Admit It:
    • In a rare moment of vulnerability, Jane tells Jack that her Sleeping Their Way to the Top might have started out with idealistic views about what she could do in a position of power, but is just about getting more power now, and warns him not to think it will be any different if he tries to sacrifice his morals for a promotion while thinking it's for the greater good.
    • The media believing this of I.N.C. due to Jack's actions gets the company some unexpected good P.R.
  • Banana Republic: Helmes tries to finance a coup in an impoverished dictatorship run by over-the-top Latin American soldiers.
  • The Cameo:
  • Churchgoing Villain: Helmes, Nixon and various others often have prayer meetings, where they just spew a lot of twisted ideology and self-justification.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Helmes is a bit of one — he insists on checking out all delinquent phone bills one-by-one!
    Helmes: Him again? Disconnect!
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Many, although not all, of the I.N.C. employees. Helmes is obsessed with profit, wanting to move a plant to Mexico for the cheap labor (destroying thousands of jobs) and financing a revolution for profit. Others try to steal each others jobs and ruin blue collar workers livelihoods casually.
  • Corrupt Politician: Jack's father is an abrasive senator who is only loyal to people who bribe him.
  • Cynical Mentor: Max is the only person consistently giving Jack honest advice and help during his early days at the company. Most of his advice boils down to not caring too much.
  • The Dark Side Will Make You Forget: A Central Theme is that the exhilaration and sleaziness of deliberately and methodically rising through the company will erode anyone's moral compass and make them forget their past selves, which is part of why Jack displays no ambition.
  • Did I Just Say That Out Loud?: When Jack and Max are sent to Allenville to play the media coverage of the worker's strike, they both get so high on Max's stash of pot that when Jack shows up in front the cameras he can't help himself but tell the truth (that the company is closing the plant because it's cheaper for them).
  • Diplomatic Impunity: Helmes nervously informs Jack that the corrupt Banana Republic has the entire floor of Helmes' building as their embassy, meaning that it's under their laws, not U.S. laws — and says this while automatic weapons are being trained on the both of them.
  • Distinction Without a Difference: Helmes and a Banana Republic dictator he sells weapons to both deny doing something that sounds repellent while defining their actions with different words that mean the same thing.
    • Helmes' argument about financing the coup in San Marcos.
      I'm simply saying that we replace a general sympathetic to Telecorp's needs with one sympathetic to our needs. That is not a coup. It's just a realignment of American interests abroad.
    • Then there's a downplayed version - a chant by the leader of the coup by his men:
      Totalitarianism, no! Authoritarianism, si!
  • Driven to Suicide: Frank Stedman, after being fired, and being unable to save his job, reflecting on all he's given the company, decides to jump. The last straw?
    Frank: (reading the gift card) "For forty years of service." (looks at the watch, laughs bitterly) A Timex!
  • The Driver: Sal, the company chauffeur, is a fairly incompetent one.
  • Expy: Allenville is a pastiche of Allentown, PA and Bethlehem, PA.
  • Fair-Weather Friend: Practically the whole company towards Stedman. Jane in particular goes from inviting him to her place for sex to leaping back form him like he has the plague upon finding out the SEC is after him and he's about to get fired.
  • First Day from Hell: Jack's first day as a PR employee at a big corporation begins with the executive he was supposed to job shadow having been fired for getting caught insider trading (and later jumping to his death out of the window in front of Jack), the man who he was being reassigned to job shadow dying of a heart attack right before they reach his office, and a third potential supervisor abruptly being sidelined after everyone finds out he's Secretly Dying.
    • Then once Jack finally gets settled in an office, before the morning is over a group of protestors throw hair removal cream at him, and a second group of protestors dump a sperm whales liver on his desk and then harpoon it, splattering Jack with blood. A third protestor shows up armed screaming about the company relocating his boyfriend to a remote job and won't tell him where he is, prompting a team of security men to break down the door before the gunman can shoot. When a fourth protestor (who he ends up falling in love with) arrives, he instinctively dives for cover when she yanks something out, although it turned out she was just taking out a petition. Ironically, things get much better for him afterwards when he's promoted to butter up his father.
  • The Fool: Jack. He doesn't seek promotion or success, just a steady job where he won't get into trouble. But his status as a Senator's son means I.N.C. quickly promotes him upward even when he makes screw-ups, all because they need to keep his Senator dad in line for their overseas schemes.
    • Jack's role as the Fool is best exemplified by arriving at the Allenville protest stoned out of his mind and happily revealing the cynical reasons why I.N.C. is shutting the plant down. While it initially gets him fired from the firm, the public applauds Jack's honesty and turn him into a media hero, forcing Helmes to hire Jack back to an even higher role in the company.
  • Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Bob Nixon and Scott Dantley are both bespectacled men and among the most callous and greedy men at the company, which is saying something.
  • Frame-Up: Hudson gets Jack's friend Rubinovich fired by stealing his business card and mailing it to the Saudi embassy along with an offensive, politically-charged letter.
    • Jack returns the favor to the whole company when he steals the bribe money meant for the dictator and donates it to a pro-Communist protest group in Helmes' name.
  • Functional Addict: Kennedy, a heavy cocaine-user whose still managed to hang on in the company's upper echelons.
  • Hauled Before A Senate Subcommittee: Helmes at the end for making a huge contribution to a "communist country". he doesn't take it well.
  • He Went That Way: In the climax, as Jack and Rachel are being chased down the stairways by gunmen because You Know Too Much, they pass his coworker Max on the stairs and beg for help, while continuing to race down to the next flight. Max responds by opening the door to the floor he's on and yelling "Run Jack, run" through it as the pursuers reach him, which of course causes them to charge through the door, assuming that Jack and Rachel went that way.
  • I Have No Son!: Senator Issel's reaction to his son being honest about how his employer's and the senator's bribe-givers are Corrupt Corporate Executives is to say "[n]o he isn't" when a reporter asks if Jack is his son.
  • I Own This Town: Helmes feels this way about New York City! He spends a helicopter ride pointing out al of the buildings he built and/or owns, and serenely comments that he came to the city with "just" $450,000,000 and now all of it is his. the final scene reveals that his control is far less than he'd given himself credit for, once he's Hauled Before A Senate Subcommittee
  • I Was Just Joking: As Nixon hints to Helmes that they should push out Hoover (and give his responsibilities to Nixon), Jack jokingly asks why not just kill Hoover. To his horror, Helmes and Nixon spend the next fifteen or twenty seconds with their faces crunched into deep thought, before shaking their heads and saying "Nah."
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Ultimately Jack, who never lets his motives get more cynical and continues trying to help Allenville (although partially to impress Rachel) and his friends at the company.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Helmes is Hauled Before A Senate Subcommittee and accused of being a Communist sympathizer, despite everything he did was in service of pure capitalism.
  • Married to the Job: Deconstructed with Howard Gross, who has thirty-five calls on hold, is hyperventilating, and yet claims to love his job, only to drop dead of a heart attack before his fortieth birthday.
  • Metaphorgotten: Helmes compares global politics with competing fried chicken franchises. Jack angrily points out the false equivalency.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Rachel is on close, personal terms with the family butler.
  • The Perfectionist: Jane. Upon reaching the executive level she was aiming for, all she can say is the office is "perfect", along with everything else, before giving the page quote.
  • Promotion, Not Punishment: Double-Subverted. After being sent to give spin-damage about I.N.C.'s Allenville sellout Jack (both to impress Rachel and because he's high on pot) gives an honest reply to all of the reporters questions about their mercenary motives. This infuriates Helmes, who promptly fires Jack, only to re-hire and promote him after seeing the media praise Jack (and by extension I.N.C.) for having the integrity not to lie to the media, with many arguing that they do have the right to protect their investment that way.
  • Race Against the Clock: After realizing he's probably going to be fired over the scandal, while stuck in traffic, Steadman gets out of his car and runs over the roofs of various cars ahead of him to get back to corporate headquarters and plead his office, and then is resorted to running from office to office trying to keep from being forced out, unsuccessfully.

  • Redeeming Replacement:After becoming the new CEO, Jack sets out to be more honest and compassionate than his sociopathic predecessor, Helmes.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The entire corporate scheme is based on the real life revolutions backed by banana companies, which had been revealed two years earlier in exposé books written by Lester D. Langley.
  • Rule #1: Max has his own list of rules, and number one is "Never take responsibility for anything", because passing the buck is the way you avoid being the Scapegoat and survive in business.
  • Short Cuts Make Long Delays: Sal always promises a shortcut that results in delays over an hour. It becomes a Brick Joke when he's flying a helicopter.
  • Shout-Out: Howard's secretary having to explain to someone on the phone that he won't be able to make his appointment or even reschedule because he's dead is one to the "Dead Parrot" sketch from Monty Python's Flying Circus.
    Gross' Secretary: The man is dead! He's turning green as we speak. Mr. Gross is not going to make it to lunch and he's not going to make it to the meeting. So if Mr. Yonge wants to see Mr. Gross that badly, I'll ship Mrs. Gross' body down there by internal mail!
  • Skewed Priorities: Howard Gross's receptionist tells him that he's receiving calls from his wife saying her father died, from executives and reporters angry over the Frank Stedman scandal, and from a mechanic with news about his sports car. He has the mechanic patched through first, and the others put on hold.
    Gross: I love this business!
  • The Slacker: Max does a decent amount of work, but never volunteers anything and tries to just go with the flow, in order to save his sanity at the company. Jack is also a little reluctant about the 9-to-5 life, although he does make an effort. In fact, the opening narration is Jack moaning That Man Is Dead — he died because he found out he'd be working for the next forty years.
  • Sleeping Their Way to the Top: Jane does this to the point where it's a running gag. Subverted in that she's not a Gold Digger. Money is a far second to power.
    • Also when Jack ends up with Rachel - who inherits her father's business empire when he is driven out by the Senate investigations into San Marcos - who puts Jack in charge of I.N.C. Subverted as this is presented as a good thing because Jack didn't seek the power and wasn't corrupted in the process.
  • Smug Snake: John Hudson, Jack's classmate and rival, is both this and The Resenter, being an enormous jerk out to sabotage everyone, but overestimating his own ability to do so.
  • Speed Sex: At the beginning of the movie, Jack has been seduced right as his graduation ceremony is starting, and hurries to get done and race across campus in time to walk up when they call his name (getting there just in time, standing up to accept his diploma a millisecond after sitting down in his assigned chair).
  • The Starscream: Al Kennedy serves as this to Mike Hoover, announcing to everyone that he's Secretly Dying and should be retired (when Mike wanted to keep on working until he died) and wanting to get his territory, despite having presented himself as Mike's Only Friend.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Jack falls in love with Rachel, a protestor against the company who turns out to be Helmes daughter.
  • Those Two Guys: Bob Nixon and Scott Dantley, the main Corrupt Corporate Executive's after Helmes himself.
  • Unexpected Virgin: A girl who nearly makes Jack miss his college graduation due to sex reveals it was her first time and different that she'd expected as they get dressed afterwards.
  • War for Fun and Profit: In the final act Helmes finances a revolution just to get someone more friendly to his business in charge of a Banana Republic. He's also seen selling arms to both sides of an African tribal war in one scene, with his executives expressing disappointment not at the loss of life but the waste of product upon learning that (since none of the tribesmen can fly) they just shove the bomber jets down hills at each other.
  • We Care: The film opens with an advertisement based on corporate compassion from Helmes, which is quickly discredited by the actions of Helmes and his employees from the moment that advertisement ends.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Several fates (such as Hoover and Rabinovich) aren't properly resolved at the end, largely due to many subplots taking the back burner in the film's second half.
  • White-Collar Crime: Frank Stedman loses his job over an insider-trading scandal and Helmes, Dixon and Dantley cheerfully try to bribe and influence politicians and engage in War for Fun and Profit.
  • Witch Hunt: The company security comes down on Jack hard with accusations of communism when he publishes a memo suggesting keeping the Allenville Factory open (partially for PR reasons) and selling shares to the workers to offset the loss. Later Played for Laughs when Helmes is the victim of this after his attempts to fund a revolution, and suffers a Villainous BSoD during the hearings.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: Steadman's own corruption and hot-headed nature ensure that Hoover doesn't feel validated to learn that Steadman is the only executive who has never called him an asshole.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: Hoover, a middle manager in the company, finds out early in the movie that he's dying and tries to keep it under wraps because the job is all he has left and doesn't want the company to fire him for being sick. His best friend promptly rats this out to Nixon. And nobody really asks Hoover just what it is he's dying from.
  • Your Makeup Is Running: After Frank's secretary is falsely told that he's dead to explain why his office is being emptied out, he finds her with smudged makeup.