Director: Todd Phillips
Starring: Miles Teller, Jonah Hill & Kevin Pollak
Synopsis: Based on the true story of two young men who won a $300 million contract from the Pentagon to arm America’s allies in Afghanistan.
Rating: 15 Duration: 114 minutes Release date: 26 December (UK)
Despite being based upon a true story, War Dogs will never be accused of being original. The tale of two slacker kids who end up as gun-runners during the Iraq War may sound new, but director Todd Phillips relies on too many other films for his latest effort to break any new ground. However, what War Dogs does well is to be a ball-blistering amount of fun, that contains the attitude and confidence of the The Hangover while showing us that its director has grown up considerably since then.
We first meet David (Miles Teller) as a massage therapist making his money as a personal therapist to some of Miami’s elite. Understandably, this isn’t enough for David and he puts all his life savings into selling high-quality bed sheets to local retirement homes. It’s a harder sell than first thought, and his plan soon goes sideways. Luckily for David he bumps into his old school friend Efraim (Jonah Hill) at a funeral and the two soon find themselves bonding once more. Efraim takes sympathy on David and offers him a job at his company AEY, a company who makes its money through selling guns and ammunition during the Iraq war.
It’s easy to make comparisons between other films, and perhaps somewhat lazy too, but War Dogs seems to have galvanized most of its influences from other films. You barely have to scratch the surface before picking out the likes of Lord of War and The Hangover, while there is a consistent attempt to mirror and reference Scarface, something which is painted in far too obvious a fashion at times. Jonah Hill seems to have borrowed the swagger and cock-sure attitude he possesses here from The Wolf of Wall Street. Literally not giving a fuck about anything, Efraim becomes ever more unreliable and his high-pitched laugh soon becomes annoying.
Miles Teller is the complete opposite. Very much the straight-man in this double act, his sober performance offers the audience a way in to care about what happens during the film and adds an extra layer meaning we have something more than just a funny film about two guys in over their heads. There is sympathy in the role that otherwise wouldn’t be there and Teller plays on this well enough to know that his character is not altogether redeemable either, but there is an innocence not projected in his best friend.
We know that War Dogs is based on a true story, mostly because the films marketing has gone out of its way to tell us so. But being a true story doesn’t always account for being an interesting or fun one. Rather ironically some of the events here have been altered for the sake of entertainment, an odd move perhaps when you consider how outlandish this whole thing already is. Todd Phillips’ previous films have relied heavily on swearing and men behaving badly, and while those benchmarks still remain here, Phillips has matured and has found a balance marking War Dogs out as funny & intelligent and manages to mark out more than a few of the US governments inadequacies.
It might not all be true, but War Dogs has enough honesty and scathing humour to justify its means.
- Pentagon Pie