Todd Phillips' War Dogs is an amusing look at just how messed up Government contracting is, with two energetic, yet expected performances by Jonah Hill and Miles Teller. War Dogs isn't quite as memorable as The Hangover, but Phillips does a nice job structuring the comedy around wild scenarios at a break-neck speed.
The Hangover director Todd Phillips returns to the R-rated comedy territory with War Dogs, a ridiculous “based on a true story” tale of two twenty-something idiots that landed a $300 million dollar government fire arms contract. War Dogs is an R-rated rags to riches story that details the wild journey of two money-hungry morons, played with honest and narrow-minded intentions by Miles Teller and Jonah Hill. It’s far from Phillips’ best work, but it’s an engaging end-of-summer comedy to help cap off the summer on a somewhat quiet note.
David Packouz (Miles Teller) is a licensed massage therapist that’s simply getting by. He makes decent money oiling down rich old guys in Florida, but he feels that he’s destined for more and in dire need of a drastic lifestyle change.
This thought also pops into his head while he finds out that his girlfriend is pregnant with their first child.
Enter an old friend named Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill). David and Efraim go back, having known each other since their childhood school days. Apparently the two were best friends until their mothers decided to split them up for good.
David has heard some shady things about Efraim, but in a desperate attempt to make a little cash he decides to join Efraim in the fire arm sales business, which David knows nothing about.
Efraim shows him the ropes in a crash course session about guns and suddenly the two find themselves scouring the US Military’s contracting website for bids on jobs. Efraim explains the messed up fundamentals of how scavengers can come in and collect the crumbs on these contracts, using cheap firearms and sometimes illegal methods to obtain and sell them.
Quickly, David and Efraim find themselves in over their heads, with millions of dollars within their fingertips and not enough time to sort it all out.
War Dogs is Todd Phillips‘ condensed and less engaging version of Scarface on a rather simplistic scale. Efraim and David are willing to do whatever it takes to get their hands on a slice of the pie, which includes traveling through Iraq and the “Triangle of Death” with a trailer full of firearms to sell to the US Army.
Their biggest deal teams them up with a man on a terrorist watch list (played with thick-rimmed glasses and a stuffed up accent by Bradley Cooper). It is this deal that gives the film its only real conflict, which is presented and followed-through in a predictable manner.
It’s not that War Dogs is a bad film or even a boring one, but it really is one of those films that plays out exactly like the trailers reveal. It has a limited amount of jokes that mostly ride on Jonah Hill‘s sleaziness and Miles Teller‘s ability to play a much less exciting version of his usual on-screen self.
The two share a decent amount of chemistry, but their relationship appears to be as paper thin as their characters’. This plants a divider between the two characters as we view the film mostly through Teller’s eyes.
War Dogs feels like a much tamer and less inspired version of a film that Martin Scorsese could probably knock out of the park. This is partially due to a barebones script that doesn’t bother complicating matters too much and Todd Phillips‘ mostly restrained direction.
Sure, the subject matter is eye-opening and kind of sad when reflected upon, but given the material that Phillips had in his hands I’m mostly surprised that he didn’t attempt to take it “too far”.
Some feel that War Dogs is a film that mostly relies on bad taste and isn’t exactly something that American audiences will find funny anymore, but I mostly disagree. I feel that the wild story is still engaging enough to watch at least once.
I just wish that Phillips would have truly embraced the material and made the film wilder or over the top.
This could’ve been his Pain & Gain, yet he tones it way down and barely utilizes the talents of Hill, Teller and even Cooper.
War Dogs is a perfectly fine end-of-summer time-killer, but it I doubt it will hold up on repeat viewings and I wouldn’t be surprised if most of us forget of its existence by the time Todd Phillips‘ next film hits theaters.