THE STORY – With the war in Iraq raging on, Efraim Diveroli offers childhood friend David Packouz a chance to make big bucks by becoming an international arms dealer. Together, they exploit a government initiative that allows businesses to bid on U.S. military contracts. Starting small allows the duo to rake in money and live the high life. They soon find themselves in over their heads after landing a $300 million deal to supply Afghan forces, a deal that puts them in business with some very shady people.
THE CAST – Miles Teller, Jonah Hill, Bradley Cooper & Ana de Armas
THE TEAM – Todd Phillips (Director), Stephen Chin, Todd Phillips & Jason Smilovic (Writers)
THE RUNNING TIME – 114 Minutes
By Matt N.
After the success (Depending on your view of what is or is not a success in Hollywood) of “The Hangover Trilogy,” writer/director Todd Phillips is back with an adaptation of the “true story” of two twenty-something-year-olds who landed the deal of a lifetime in the wake of the Iraq War as arms dealers to the United States government. The story is a wild one with a pair of fun performances from Miles Teller and Jonah Hill. However, the film lacks the energy (I’ve been hearing other reviewers compare this to “Goodfellas.” What?!) to carry it over the finish line as a rousing success.
America is fully involved in the Iraq War during the early 2000s. Small time arms dealer Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill) offers his childhood friend David Packouz (Miles Teller) the opportunity of a lifetime: Leave his degrading job as a massage therapist and become an international arms dealer for the United States government. By exploiting a new government initiative which allows businesses to bid on American military contracts, the duo soon finds themselves in foreign countries, negotiating with dangerous people such as Henry Girard (Bradley Cooper) and trying to stay alive for potentially millions of dollars.
Jonah Hill quite possibly gives one of the best performances of his career as Efraim Diveroli. He’s a lonely coward with an inferiority complex which he takes out on literally everyone around him through insults, backstabbing, lies and manipulation. Hill hints at just the right amount of sympathy throughout the film, until his true colors are revealed. Teller has the role of the straight man who is way in over his head rushing guns with his best friend from junior high. In one example, the pair transports hundreds of berrettas from Jordan to Baghdad with extremists chasing after them through what is known as “The Triangle Of Death.” There’s even a chilling performance from Bradley Cooper (Who is not in the film enough) as an international arms dealer who is on a terrorist watchlist that brokers a deal with the two young men which could result in hundreds of millions of dollars.
While all of this sounds fascinating and the trailers have marketed this film as a comedy of two young men who are out of their league in an industry that is highly unpredictable, the final film could not be further away from the truth, literally. Events in the film are heavily dramatized because the actual details behind them are not as exciting as the film portrays them to be and the odd mixture of drama laced with comedy (Make no mistake, this is a drama, not a comedy). The film turns out to be mean spirited with nothing meaningful to say. Todd Phillips continues to shoot his films unlike any other comedic director out there with a degree of style and framing which could amount to some form of artistry but here he tries one too many times to pay homage to Scorsese classics such as “Goodfellas” that it teeters into becoming unoriginal and boring.
“War Dogs” is not a good drama nor is it a good comedy. It’s a buddy movie which later on turns out to be a mean-spirited buddy movie with no redeeming qualities other than the skill behind the camera by cinematographer Lawrence Sher and the performances of the cast. However, an unfocused script with no originality nor excitement (David’s long suffering girlfriend is nothing more than a storytelling device used to guide our allegiance towards David instead of hating both David and Efraim by the film’s end), sucks the life out of what could have been a more fascinating story. Ultimately you walk away from the movie knowing that which hopefully you already know: money talks. It makes good men do bad things and it makes sane men do insane things. And as long as we continue to provide films such as these our money, they will keep on coming.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – Quite possibly the best performance of Jonah Hill’s career
THE BAD – Odd storytelling structure, unsure of its own genre (Comedy or drama?), and features very unlikable characters
THE OSCARS – None
THE FINAL SCORE – 2/10