The American Dream, circa Generation-Y, yo.
David Packouz (Miles Teller) hasn’t made much of his life since the days of high school. When he isn’t giving rich dudes massages for $75 an hour, he’s out there, trying to sell high-end bed sheets to retirement homes. Needless to say, it’s a very unfortunate life he has, but with the return of his old pal, Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill), his luck may have changed. Seeing as how they were best pals back in the day and can probably trust one another with everything, Efraim asks for David to be his partner in his selling and supplying weapons to U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan. While David isn’t quite sure of how this arms-dealing business works, he soon learns the ropes and wouldn’t you know it? Him and Efraim are raking in all sorts of dough, not to mention getting the interest of the Pentagon, who see two youngsters making it big and succesful in America. However though, little does anyone outside of David or Efraim know, that the two are up to no good and more often than not, finding themselves in some murky areas of the law that may possibly bring them down, have them arrested, or better yet, even get them killed.
For Todd Phillips, it seems like War Dogs is his the Big Short. Whereas the later was directed by Adam McKay, someone trying to break out of the mold of directing silly comedies, by exposing the U.S.’s financial history and how it caused for the rest of society to go insane, War Dogs shows Phillips trying to do the same thing, but by exposing America’s reliance on guns and arms-dealers, most importantly, this true tale. In fact, the tale is so crazy and wild, that you’d think making a movie and trying to capture that sense of wackiness would be pretty difficult, but honestly, Phillips works well with the material.
It may not be the movie that makes him out to be a voice to be reckoned with, but it’s a step in the right direction away from another Hangover movie.
Anyway, yeah, what works best about War Dogs is that it has such a crazy real-life tale, that all Phillips really has to do is play by the facts of the story and leave it at that. He, as well as the movie, works best at that because there’s a certain sense of seriousness hiding underneath every zany moment; just when you think it’s all “too good to be true”, check it out and guess what? It’s damn true.
War Dogs is also the kind of movie that has a lot of story and ground to cover, yet, handles it quite effortlessly. The movie could have easily been tied-down in trying to explain just how these two bros were able to access all of these weapons in the first place, but instead of focusing down on that so much, they make a mention of it and continue on with these guys’ adventure into becoming legitimate arms-dealers. It’s kind of a silly tale, but it’s one that’s hard not to believe in, nor get tied-up in because there really is an energy and excitement to it that hasn’t been found in any of Phillips’ movies since the first Hangover.
And in ways, War Dogs is a lot less like the Big Short, than it’s more like Blow, or as it wishes, possibly even Scarface.
It’s the kind of movie that we’ve probably seen before, has a whole lot of ambitions that it doesn’t necessarily reach, but is so entertaining and fun when it gets moving, that it’s hard to hold anything against. Phillips does something smart in that he doesn’t focus too much on the small, itty, bitty details and instead, just lets loose and allows for us to watch as these guys rise up the ranks. We know we’re supposed to hate them for what they’re doing and who they’re supplying weapons to, but honestly, it’s so difficult to do so when the ride of watching them become more and more rich, is so much fun to begin with.
And honestly, in a summer that’s been filled with quite a few duds, it’s nice to have a movie that’s having fun with itself, but also ask for the audience to join in it as well.
That said, War Dogs does run into issues with seeming like it wants to have something more to do and say about what story it’s presenting, but ultimately, drops the ball on that front. Phillips himself seems as if he’s both for and against these guys; he likes how they’ve seemingly used their smarts and cons to get all of the money that they wanted and seem like legitimate businessman while doing so, but at the same time, also doesn’t like how they went about their business-dealings. The movie does toggle with the idea of making money off of terrorists, as opposed to making it off of government agencies, but as soon as its brought up, it goes away.
It’s a bit of a shame, too, because War Dogs does work whenever it seems as if it wants to dig deeper into these characters, their lives, and their relationship with one another. It helps that Teller and Hill are perhaps the most charismatic young actors we have working today, but regardless, the two work so well together that they do feel like best pals, who are absolutely loving everything about life. Teller gets to play his role more meek and quiet this time around, whereas Hill gets to play slimy and gritty, but also showing that he may be a good friend, as well.
The issue is that with these two characters, that’s only who they end up being: Best pals.
They run through certain problems that all business-partners run through and yeah, they also have small squabbles in between, but there’s more of a heart missing to this movie that makes so many of those other crime-dramas work so well. We may not have to like their actions, or better yet, even like them as a whole, but any sort of characteristic that resembles being sympathetic, would definitely help make this journey all the more compelling. It still works as is, don’t get me wrong, but a little more attention to the stuff that counts would have helped out a whole lot.
Consensus: Fast, exciting and above all else, entertaining, War Dogs paints it true story as a typical rags-to-riches story, but with a darker edge, even if it doesn’t always connect with every mark it sets out to hit.
7.5 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire