Director Todd Phillips grabbed the Hollywood spotlight a few years ago with the highly praised and highest grossing “R” rated comedy, The Hangover. The subsequent sequels and the Planes, Trains, and Automobiles clone, Due Date were mediocre at best and awful at worst. Now Phillips is ready to tackle a more serious and true life story. Can Phillips transition from over the top comedy to tell a more grounded tale?
War Dogs tells the true story of two friends in the early 2000’s, Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz. David (Miles Teller) is a pot smoking massage therapist whose aspirations in life are in his rearview mirror. David meets up with an old school buddy, Efraim (Jonah Hill). As these two reacquaint themselves with each other Efraim informs David of his current occupation, arms dealer. Efraim tells David he trolls a government website looking to fill small orders of arms that the “big players” don’t bother with. David with no prospects and a pregnant girlfriend has been invited and more than willing to partner with Efraim and his firm, AEY, Inc. These friends start making a decent living on their small arms deals, but when a deal that would gross them $300 million these friends take a risk that could cost them more than a big paycheck.
War Dogs is a thoroughly entertaining end of Summer film. Miles Teller and in particular Jonah Hill are tremendous. Their characters show depth and some real emotion. Jonah Hill’s portrayal of Efraim Diveroli is one that is likable one minute and slimy the next. Miles Teller plays well off of Hill and they have good chemistry. Bradley Cooper has a small, but pivotal role and is quite memorable as a shady arms dealer that does business with Efraim and David. Director Phillips has done a great job of balancing comedy, tension, suspense and drama. Even though some of the antics are fictionalized, these scenes do provide for a more compelling film product.
War Dogs does suffer from a few problems. Lapses in logic concerning the character of David (Miles Teller) does stick out. Someone as smart and organized as he is portrayed does do an act to be a partner in his friend’s company and somehow egregiously and conveniently forgets to secure the paperwork. The only other problem with this film is that instead of going out with a bang it winds down to a whimper of a finale. War Dogs is a flawed, but compelling entertainment and refrains from being preachy about its subject matter. War Dogs enthralls and manages to be a sobering tale of the inner workings of the arms trade and how the corruption of the soul can lead one down a path of destruction. As the Summer movie season ticks away, War Dogs is a great way to spend two hours of it.