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War Dogs rises on the strength of Jonah Hill's compelling performance to take a lightly entertaining look at troubling real-world events.
War Dogs rises on the strength of Jonah Hill's compelling performance to take a lightly entertaining look at troubling real-world events.
All Critics (221)
| Top Critics (44)
| Fresh (133)
| Rotten (88)
| DVD (1)
At best, War Dogs is a missed creative opportunity; at worst, it's a quasi-celebration of two vile schemers, one that ignores the brutality of the world they capitalized on.
A diverting but by no means indispensable expose of the international arms black market.
Instead of outrage or any sense of shock and surprise, all the film has on offer is mild entertainment. Given the company, that feels like a bit of a miss.
The characters have no memories, no identities, no range of interests, no personal connections, no idiosyncrasies beyond the dictates of the plot and the numbingly clear point that the filmmakers use it to make.
Since wrapping The Hangover trilogy, Phillips's creativity hasn't developed - it's devolved.
"War Dogs" starts off longing to shock us with its incredible tale. It ends up presenting its story so generically that it loses the quirky irregularities of real life. We can't be outraged because we're never really challenged.
These are some ugly people, doing ugly things for money, and for that "War Dogs" does its job of making the audience see a side of America that surely no one wants to talk about.
WAR DOGS is a mixed bag of great lines of snappy dialogue and a couple of truly intense scenes, yet somehow (aside from Jonah Hill) it all seems half-baked with several empty spaces to fill.
The only reason to see this film is for Jonah Hill's performance. Those are twelve words I never in my life thought I'd say.
War Dogs was a much more substantial film than I ever expected from the trailers.
This is a movie that comes across like it was written in a haze of pot smoke in a dorm room adorned with a Scarface poster as a classic rock station played out the same old tired hits.
Teller and Hill have a buddy chemistry that at times suggests a frathouse Henry IV, where Hal's struggle is not to put away childish things but to steer clear from dangerous adult things like Ak-47 ammo.
Based on a true story, War Dogs is a fascinating crime drama about war profiteering. The film follows two former childhood friends who partner up to run an arms company that supplies the U.S. military, eventually conning their way into a multimillion dollar Afghanistan contract. Miles Teller and Jonah Hill are especially good and Bradley Cooper delivers an impressive supporting performance as a mysterious foreign arms dealer. Additionally, the writing is really strong and does an impressive job at breaking down and explaining the arms industry. And, the soundtrack brings a lot of energy and excitement to the film, and helps to set the right tone. A smart and entertaining film, War Dogs explores how avarice corrupts and destroys lives.
Holy Ben & Jerry's what's happened to Jonah Hill?!
Anyway what we have here is a movie based on a [i]Rolling Stone[/i] article, whilst at the same time a very very loose adaptation of real events. The story follows two young men in their twenties, Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz, who simply become arms dealers and turn out to be very good at it. From humble beginnings they both start off with small fry to ease themselves into the industry. Then as things go well for them they naturally progress to bigger fish and eventually land a major US government contract. But as with many things, what goes up must come down.
This movie has that very well trodden style that kinda feels a bit like a Scorsese mob flick with dark humour thrown in. You know what I mean right, lots of mini montages that show a period of time where the protagonists are going from strength to strength in their new, usually dodgy field of expertise. This is often accompanied by some hip music, usually something retro from way back, a bit of slow motion, narration etc...you know the score. Well this movie basically starts of predictably in that vein with both men going through some bad patches, coming together, getting through some scrapes together until finally they click and start their ball rolling.
With that the film is entertaining for the most part as we unravel what kind of characters these guys are. Hill plays Diveroli, a larger than life, overly confident, brash young man who (in this movie) looks like a small time wannabe hood that wouldn't look outta place in...yep you guessed it, a Scorsese movie. On the other hand Teller plays Packouz, a struggling massage therapist with a wife, a kid and morals; the sensible foil to the loud and outrageous Diveroli. In that both actors are genuinely fun to watch as they both bumble their way into the big leagues. I don't really know much about Teller other than the hit flop 'Fantastic 4' but I was surprised to find myself relating to his situation and actually caring about his characters outcome. Here's a genuinely nice bloke, trying his best to make a living, who gets caught up in something that gets outta hand; but he doesn't deserve the backlash.
On the other hand the character of Diveroli is played with gusto by Hill and is easily the more exciting to watch even if his character is an A-hole most of the time. This is a guy Packouz knew from school so they are pretty close, they have history. With that its hard for Packouz to tame or argue with Diveroli because he basically doesn't wanna upset the guy, he likes Diveroli. The man is over the top but essentially just trying to make a buck for the pair of them. To top that Diveroli gets Packouz into the gunrunning biz to help him with his money problems. Obviously things work out well and the pair make a killing which makes it even harder for Packouz to rock the boat because he owes Diveroli everything. But anyway Hill is the best thing in this movie from his somewhat heavy frame which is a little intimidating, to his crazy laugh, off the cuff quips, devious lies and eventual turncoat behaviour.
What we see for the most part is the duo setting up contracts, working their business setup (AEY), juggling home life (for Packouz anyway) and letting their hair down in various seedy ways. The only real moments of 'action', if you can call it that, are when the duo actually go off to Jordan to smuggle some weapons into Iraq. They do this via truck (as they have no permit to fly despite numerous bribes here and there) which is actually quite tense and exciting because you have no clue how it will go down. If you go into the movie blind, without knowing anything of the real time events then its hard to guess what might happen. Sure you know they'll have issues, but you're not sure what kind and if anyone will end up dead. The movie is a blend of black comedy and bio-pic with this adult edge, not overly adult, but just enough to make you unsure about the levels of violence it may or may not show.
After a bit of research I did discover that the story is heavily exaggerated and dramatised to make a more interesting flick. Much of what we do see is apparently fictional and never occurred, although I'm unsure what. I do know that the entire gunrunning operation into Iraq never happened, so even though its a good section of the film, its invented (or based on other events). This does hinder the movie somewhat as it dilutes the gritty atmosphere, supposedly based on real events. For instance, at one point Packouz's Albanian driver disappears without a trace when their shady deal with another gunrunner (Bradly Cooper) starts to go tits up. Although it sounds kinda normal for something like this, its actually not. The plot up to that point doesn't really follow that kind of mobster killing route, so when this occurs you tend to ask yourself why. Add to the fact that it might not be true anyway and all of a sudden the film lacks punch.
Nonetheless, not knowing anything about this American scandal actually helped me enjoy the movie. It probably helped me enjoy it much more than if I did know the whole story because then I'd know the final outcome and all the stuff that was made up for the film (obviously). So despite the plot being somewhat generic with many tropes and styles that have been done many times before, I was still engaged. The main plot surrounding a huge arms deal with the US government going belly up and the guys trying to blunder their way out of it was good stuff, offering plenty of commentary on modern America. Not overly shocking these days to be honest, but still an eye opener for sure. Solid stuff but nothing epic.
As I watched War Dogs, the darkly comic true-life story of war graft, gunrunning, and bro-tastic bravado, I kept wishing to copy and paste other characters into what was an interesting plot. A pair of neophytes was awarded military arms contracts from the Pentagon during the Iraq War, and their schemes to skirt U.S. laws to import guns across borders, illegal and faulty munitions, and uneasily work as a go-between with a client (Bradley Cooper) on the U.S. terrorism watch list are filled with perplexing yet juicy details. The biggest problem is that the two main characters, played by Miles Teller and Jonah Hill, are so powerfully archetypal to the point of unrelenting blandness. We have the naïve everyman pulled into a life of big bucks, big risk, and big power only to have it all come crashing down. Hill's character is the loud, uncouth part we've come to expect from the Oscar-nominated actor, and I defy anyone to tell me anything about Teller's character other than occupation and his relationship to other people. These parts are so thinly drawn that I didn't care about them once they finally got into deep trouble. I believe that director/co-writer Todd Phillips, he of The Hangover series, has the right qualifications to make a flinty neo-noir thriller, but War Dogs is more his half-hearted version of a glib Scorsese movie, or a David O. Russell version of a Scorsese movie. The voice over narration is dull and doesn't help illuminate Teller's character at all, and the other stylistic flourishes, from pointless inter-titles to a non-linear plot, add up to very little. Half of the movie's scant jokes are the ongoing sound of Hill's off-putting wheeze of a laugh. I'm not kidding, after an hour the movie still treats his laugh like it's a potent punchline. There is entertainment value to be gleaned from War Dogs chiefly from its larger-then-life story and the intriguing, shadowy world of war profiteers. It's a movie that made me wish I had read the magazine article it's based upon instead, which would have also been shorter.
Nate's Grade: C
Road Trip meets Zero Dark Thirty. After the release of The Hangover in 2008, director Todd Phillips has been on the decline, as far as his theatrical film resume goes. Releasing the lukewarm Due Date and two unnecessary sequels to The Hangover, it was unclear if Phillips would give in to Hollywood in all the wrong ways, or eventually gain traction once again. I can now say, without any hesitation, that Todd Phillips is back. War Dogs marks his ninth directorial debut, and if any film was going to show his new found range as a director, it was this. The Hangover is easily Phillips' best work to date, but putting comedy aside, here is why I believe War Dogs to possibly be his best overall film.
While it would be a false statement to categorize War Dogs as a straight up comedy, like most of the directors previous work, it does have its fair share of gags, while still remaining true to the serious (true) story at hand. It is without question that most true stories are altered when translated to the big screen, but film is subjective and one can't judge whether or not a film is good, solely on facts alone. If it is a well-made and well-intentioned film, that is all that matters. As I was viewing this picture, I found myself wondering if 100% of this actually happened, and the reality is that this film is probably only half accurate, so I will refrain from studying the backstory on this one.
Following David Packouz (Miles Teller) as he bumps into his old high school friend, Efraim Diveroli, little does he know that he is about to leave behind his boring lifestyle to become a globally known, international arms dealer. Lying to his girlfriend, just after finding out she is pregnant, David embarks on this journey to gain the money necessary to establish a great life for himself. Driving the guns into Iraq themselves, getting involved in black market deals, and eventually spiralling out of control, both physically and mentally, there lives very quickly become hectic. War Dogs is filled with a very serious story, while also choosing to give quite a bit of levity through the very believable performances by Jonah Hill and Miles Teller.
While I must say that after the casting announcement that Todd Phillips would be directing a film a little out of his wheelhouse, starring the likes of Miles Teller and Jonah Hill in the leading roles, I have never been more turned off. There was nothing that proved these two could share any believable on-screen chemistry, but I was rapidly shot down as soon as their first scene together in the film took place. Jonah Hill being the untrustworthy businessman and Miles Teller being the vulnerable family man, ended up making for some very funny, fast-moving, and sometimes sentimental scenes. Having Bradley Cooper appear in the film was just the icing on the cake. Having worked with this director quite a few times in the past, it was without a doubt going to be a great fit for the film. Although he is not on screen much, his presence only added to the talent that was already present.
I have been raving about everything this film was able to accomplish, but there are a few moments that could have been trimmed down or cut out in my opinion. There are a few instances where characters repeat lines of dialogue, almost verbatim, of something that was noted in a previous scene. While I was able to get past that, certain scenes began to slightly drag, making the film feel a little longer than it should have felt. This is solely due to the overuse of drilling the audience with the thoughts of the characters. You could already tell what was motivating each individual character and why they were doing what they were doing, but it almost felt like a portion of the dialogue was spoon-feeding its audience. Aside from that, I believe this film does everything right that it sets out to accomplish, in spades.
War Dogs may not be a classic, but for director Todd Phillips, it should be remembered as one of his best. Going a little out of his comfort zone with the comedy aspect, he tackles a far more serious story, giving audiences a taste of the variety he is capable of. In the end, I do not think this is a perfect film, but it is a very, very well-made one. With great performances all around, believable, yet crazy scenarios, and unbelievable chemistry between its two leads, I must say that I am far more impressed with this film than I was hoping to be. Still, I can't go as far as to say I loved it, but it is a very enjoyable time at the movies and I would recommend it to anyone who loves an engaging story, with a taste of some great gags sprinkled throughout. War Dogs is great!
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