War Dogs (2016) Movie Review
Todd Phillips, Stephen Chin, and Jason Smilovic
As the summer movie season winds down (one of the worst in recent memory) we realize that the pickings will be slim (like Jonah Hill in 22 Jump Street) until late September when the Oscar hopefuls start rolling out. Meanwhile, we stay at home and have our own sausage party until that Tom-Hanks-lands-A-Plane movie comes out and makes us feel better about being an American.
This week’s offering War Dogs doesn’t necessarily make us feel better about being Americans, but it is 2 hours of people talking about guns, shooting guns, and making a lot of money in relation to guns.
Guns and money- Americans love those.
Dogs serves as a minor comeback for director Todd Phillips (Joker) . The movie’s onesheets boast “From The Director of the Hangover Trilogy” apparently not aware that Hangovers 2 and 3 were garbage and 2010’s stillborn Due Date had Zack Galifianakis at his most unlikable and annoying. Galifianakis is not infecting a frame of this movie, but Bradley Cooper delivers an acid cameo as an smarter-than-you arms dealer, which is probably why this movie works more often than it doesn’t (Phillips shares screenwriting credit with Jason Smilovic and Stephen Chin as well as a big fluffy pillow).
There are times when Dogs strikes a nerve as a dark twist on the American Dream, but those times are few and far between. It’s also reason #4573 why white people scare me.
War Dogs starts off with your standard voice-over. David Packouz (Miles Teller) is being pulled out of the trunk of a car in what looks to be a country definitely not America. There’s a gun pointed at his head and then we get to hear how it all went wrong…
Flash back to 2005.
David is working as a massage therapist barely making ends meet. He has a girlfriend Izzy (Ana De Armaz) who loves and trusts him. His attempt at a business selling bed sheets to Old Folks Homes has put him massively in debt.
His life changes when he’s at a funeral and sees his old school chum Ephraim (Jonah Hill, doing a more Jewish version of Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in Wolf of Wall Street). They meet-cute, and David learns that Eph has made hundreds of thousands of dollars in the past couple of months selling arms to the US Government.
Eph is keen to cut David into the deal, but David is reluctant because he knows nothing about selling arms and is against the war in Iraq. But thanks to a Bush-mandated loophole, it is now possible for anyone to sell arms to the US provided they actually deliver the merchandise promised.
David learns that Izzy is pregnant. Now he’s DTSATTUS (down to sell arms to the US)
Eph gives Dave takes a crash course in arms dealing and pretty soon they’re making a decent amount of money. It’s not long before they’re taking on larger and probably more dangerous deals. It’s not long before David and Eph start to mistrust each other. But when you’re dealing with mass amounts of weapons involving some countries that want to see the US destroyed, what could possibly go wrong?
What Works With War Dogs
- Miles Teller gives the best performance in the film as the audience surrogate, playing just naïve enough to be seduced by the easy money of arms dealing but not dumb enough to miss covering his own ass. Also, when the credits roll, you realize if it weren’t for him, you would have spent two hours with characters that are a bunch of obnoxious a-holes. If you wanted to do that, you could just watch reruns of the d-bags on Jersey Shore.
- Watching Teller work, you get the feeling he’s still trying make penance for being in last year’s worst movie The Fantastic Four.
- Parts of it were ruined by the trailers, but a sequence involving David and Eph transporting guns from Fallujah to Baghdad is the best sequence of the movie, and one of the best of the summer. Director Phillips sets it up so well that you know why everyone is there and what’s at stake. Even if you know how it’s going to turn out, you can’t help feel a palpable thrill.
What Doesn’t Work With War Dogs
- War Dogs is a good movie, even if you’ve seen movies like it a million times before, as the almost generic Rags-To-Riches-To-Rags-Again story is played out in a very predictable fashion. There are times when you are saying to yourself “This is the part when_______” or “Jonah Hill’s character will now ________” and then being right on target(!). Being predictable isn’t the worst thing a movie can be, but it certainly doesn’t help the movie distinguish itself from something you can rent with better results.
- In fact, just watch 2005’s Lord of War for an even more profound cautionary tale involving weapons dealing. It harkens back to a time when Nicolas Cage’s career was more than just a cautionary tale.
You people made Suicide Squad of all things break box office records. You are clearly not that discerning. A mild recommendation for this true tale of white men behaving badly.