Directed by: – Todd Philips
Produced by: – Mark Gordon, Todd Phillips & Bradley Cooper
Starring: – Jonah Hill, Miles Teller, Ana de Armas, J.B. Blanc, Bradley Cooper, Barry Livingston, Kevin Pollak, Eddie Jemison,
Runtime: – 114 minutes (1hr 56mins)
Money, Corruption And The American Dream
When a movie, tells you that it is based on a true story, I tend to roll my eyes at that tag because Hollywood tends to take massive liberties with events that transpired and in some cases out right lie as exemplified in movies like The Pursuit of Happyness, Flight and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. So one thing that really intrigued me going into this movie that is apparently based on a Rolling Stone article by Guy Lawson called “ The Stoner Arms Dealers: How Two American Kids Became Big Time Weapons Traders” and a subsequent book titled Arms and Dudes detailing this crazy event, is how accurate it was and more importantly whether it is a good movie. For the purpose of this review I am not going to judge this film based on its factual accuracy but its ability to entertain the crowd.
War Dogs is set around the time the war in Iraq was kicking off. 20-something year-old Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill) offers childhood friend David Packouz, a masseuse who is struggling to make ends meet and is expecting a baby with his wife Iz (Ana De Armas), an opportunity to make a killing by becoming an international arms dealer. Together, they exploit a government initiative that allows businesses to bid on U.S. military contracts. They start small which allows the duo to rake in money and live the high life. They soon get ahead of themselves after landing a $300 million deal to supply Afghan forces. This deal that puts them in business with some very shady people.
Todd Philips of The Hangover Trilogy and Road Trip fame has been giving the task to direct a slightly darker comedy than he is used to and offer commentary on the apparent shadiness of the US government. He goes into this movie armed with fire-power in the form of two-time academy award nominee and comedy legend, Jonah Hill and the talented Miles Teller who is beginning to show the world his potential. Does this bro-mantic dramedy hit the target or is it a dud ? lets take a look at the pros and cons to find out.
- Miles Teller has made some wrong choices in terms of the roles played in the past (Fantastic 4/Fan4stic & The Divergent series come to mind) but performances like this show of his potential. It is very hard for an actor to convince the crowd to root for an Arms dealer but he succeeds in this right. He manages to encapsulate the vulnerability and desperation of David, a reluctant masseuse who is ultimately a nice guy that made mistakes along the way that enters the dark and dingy world of International Arm’s dealing in order to provide for his family. The movie focuses its attention on Teller’s character as he also acts as the main narrator of the movie who does a good job of keeping the audience up-to-speed about the nuances of the gun-trading market.
- From the moment Jonah Hill’s character got to the boot of his car to pick up a sub-machine gun to threaten some gang bangers, I knew instantly that this performance will go down the annals of time as one of his best. Hill portrays Efraim Duveroli as a volatile, loud, sarcastic, obese and morally ambiguous basket case who has a trademark squeaky laugh to cut the tension at the end of every crazy moment. Of the two, He is the corrupted one who is not afraid to throw people under bus for his own interest. Jonah brings his A-game to give the audience an over –the –top performance that is thoroughly entertaining to watch despite the fact that as the despicable sleaze ball who dubs himself as an “Ugly American” and individual that isn’t “pro-war” but “pro-money”.
- Like I keep saying, a comedy like this lives or dies on the compatibility of the duo. Fortunately I’m happy to report that the chemistry between our leads is extremely fun to watch. It’s a classic case of the straight arrow and the corrupted loose cannon. The rapport between our stars is genuinely believable as they bounce of each other well and show a strong bond that suggests that they are indeed best buddies despite their opposing personalities.
- Bradley Cooper even manages to make an impact despite the small screen time as the mysterious veteran trader Henry Girad, who you never know what his true intentions are.
- I really enjoyed the style in which the story was told. Todd Philips, who is well known for the Hang Over trilogy beautifully shot this film in a style very reminiscent of a Martin Scorsese film like TheWolf of Wall Street & The Good Fellas. It shares its structural design in the sense that the movie has its protagonist doing a voice-over narration of the plot and features songs with thematic purpose and it also shares his sense of humour to a certain extent. A film like this shows how far Todd Philips has come as a director as he’s able to add a huge dose of dramatic flair to movie sprinkled with dirty jokes.
- On the surface the movie looks a lot like past Phillips comedies about men behaving badly, with dirty jokes and wacky escapades. War Dogs in actuality is actually more critical of its protagonists’ behavior, and there’s plenty of sad commentary about the state of modern America and how shady its government can be with the war economy.
- Although the movie looks like it’s going to shake things up with its fascinating story it loses steam and ends up being generic and predictable. With a story like this I can’t help but feel a little disappointed that the movie plays it safe and never aims to get out of its comfort zone.
- Even though Miles Teller had a good performance as Dave, I feel that this movie missed an opportunity to tell parts of the story from Efraim perspective. It makes the film feel a little imbalanced as a result and comes off as a contrived effort to put light to a crazy incident that happened in real life. Jonah Hill’s performance also highlights this problem as he outshines his co-star who the movie focuses on a little more.
War Dogs is a dark comedy packed with great performances from its leads especially Jonah Hill who ends up being its shining light. Despite its wicked sense of humour and its light commentary on awful real–world events, it falls short from being a classic due to the fact it never goes all out with the film’s topic of discussion and its predictability. Still a great watch that you won’t be disappointed with.
RATING: – WORTH A WATCH