War Dogs opens August 19, 2016. “War Dogs” is Todd Phillip’s new film. It is based on a true story and book by Guy Lawson of the same title. To sum up the film in one sentence: it’s when good Jewish guys, who were best buds at Hebrew Summer Camp watch way too much of Nicolas Cage in “Lord of War” and Al Pacino in “Scarface.”
When they go bad, we kinda laugh at it.
There are no spoilers in this review that are not also introduced in the film’s trailer.
War Dogs is A Buddy Movie with a Twist
Two childhood friends, David Packouz (Miles Teller) and Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill) discover and exploit a little-known government initiative that taps into the entrepreneurial capitalist spirit. It allows small businesses to bid on U.S. military contracts to deliver arms to American allies during the Iraq War. Awww, the American dream, sounds like nice honest work right? What could go wrong? Well as we’ve seen with other Todd Phillips films, like in “The Hangover”, well simply everything can.
A Medium Buzz
“War Dogs” has got all of the essential Phillips elements, but at a lower budget. It’s not a full ‘hangover,’ but more like a ‘medium buzz.’ It’s filled with the usual cast of crazy characters. As well as the plot line of “how did we get caught up in this mess?” There’s even the usual ultimatum, so common in his films. Like “deliver the merchandize by a certain time or something bad is going to happen, someone’s going to die.”
War Dogs is not a full ‘hangover.’ It’s more of a medium buzz.
I Saw an Advance Screening
I early screened this film back in March 2016. My thoughts were that the script was good. The story is told through the point of view of David Packouz’s character via his thoughts and introspections.
Bradley Cooper’s even in it… but only for like half the blink of an eye. His appearance is more of a cameo than a starring or supporting role. Cooper also served as producer on the film. He didn’t seem to really try that hard in playing the legendary uber blacklisted arms dealer – the guy that every country has on their international watch list and that Packouz and Diveroli revere as a hero.
Keep an eye on actor Miles Teller. He has previously starred in the “Fantastic Four” reboot and “Divergent.” Teller gave a solid performance as David Packouz. He made you want to see more of him as the boring friend looking for some kinda change in his life who looks up to the much cooler and law-breaking, Efraim. He’s the honest, but down-on-his luck friend looking for a break who wants more confidence and swagger about himself. We can totally relate to him as the guy who just got caught up in some bad gunrunning foreign arms stuff so that he could support his girlfriend and their unplanned baby on the way.
A New Side of Jonah Hill
I appreciated seeing a new gangsta side of Jonah Hill as Efraim Diveroli. He was ‘just’ and I mean ‘just’ crazy and psychotic enough to get my attention and hold it.
I’m sure that with Hill, Phillips and Cooper’s names attached to the project, the studio hopes it’ll be enough of an above-the-line draw to get you into the theater to see the film.
War Dogs script tries too hard to be funny. It even pauses when you are expected to laugh.
So what’s wrong with it you ask? Well what bothered me was that the script seemed to try too hard to be funny. It actually paused in places, meaning that the dialogue between the characters seemed to be choreographed just so, as if the writer expected that this was when the audience was supposed to laugh. Basically, insert laughter “here.”
Problem was, most of the time the audience didn’t laugh when it was cued up. There were also parts that seem to go on a bit too long and others that needed to be developed out more, like for example, the ending. I won’t spoil it, but if we get nothing but ongoing explanations, observations and introspections from Teller’s character about everything during the entire film, but then the ending comes, and he has absolutely nothing to say about it?? The script didn’t wrap up the ending tightly enough. We’ve been listening to Teller’s thoughts the entire two hours and now he clams up right when we want him to say something.
Based on this, I just didn’t think War Dogs was strong enough for a wide theatrical run to make a huge box office return. It could have used a re-write and another round at the edit bay to tighten up some of the scenes. Perhaps it’ll hold over for 2-3 weeks at the theater, but I predict that it will probably do much better dollar-wise via Cable VOD and through some of the online subscription providers such as, Netflix and Hulu.
But don’t let this dissuade you from seeing it. There are a lot of good things about this film. Miles Teller owns his role and the evolution of his character as the straight passive guy whose self-esteem gets strengthened, allowing him to finally take back control of his life, is definitely worth a look see. It’s a good Saturday afternoon film to watch at home in your living room when you have a couple of hours to kill. We all need those ‘just when you thought your life was going bad’ films and this is one of them. This guy is running busted arms in Afghanistan to try and pay for baby formula, that’s sure to brighten up anyone’s spirit who may be having a bit of a cloudy day.