War Dogs

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Release date: 26th August 2016/Watch the trailer here

A disappointing summer of films comes to a close with War Dogs, which, surprisingly, may actually be one of the best of the season. Directed by Todd Phillips (best known for The Hangover trilogy), War Dogs is based on a Rolling Stone article about two twenty-something men who found themselves in the international arms dealing business, David Packouz (Miles Teller) and Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill). It tells the story of their increasingly wild career, including winning a $300 million contract from the Pentagon.

It’s easy to draw comparisons between War Dogs and The Wolf of Wall Street, partly because of the Jonah Hill connection and partly because they’re both about bad men doing bad things for a lot of money. Although War Dogs may never reach the Scorsese-esque levels of greatness that it seems to strive for (and is certainly influenced by), it’s still a highly enjoyable piece of popcorn entertainment with two strong lead performances from Teller and Hill.

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Todd Phillips favourite Bradley Cooper also makes an appearance as sketchy arms dealer Henry Girard, who’s on a terrorist watch list. Efraim has no qualms about working with such a character, and when David raises concerns, Efraim replies with ‘do you work for Homeland Security? Relax, bro’ – an interaction that neatly sums up the relationship between the two.

Hill, as has become his norm, is the outrageous and offensive one, lacking all morals, in it for the money and the power that comes with it. Teller, as has become his norm, is the slightly blander counterpart, a massage therapist who protests against the war with his girlfriend, Iz (Ana de Armas), having to overcome his ethical dilemmas when he becomes partners with Efraim in their business, called AEY (an acronym which doesn’t stand for anything).

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The saving grace of War Dogs is how unashamedly entertaining it is. At times there are moments of genuine comedy, but it also works on a more gripping, dramatic level, too. It shouldn’t work as well as it does – and there are still elements, such as David’s constant expositional narration, that don’t work at all. If anything, there are too many genres rolled into one here – War Dogs is a film that doesn’t quite know if it wants to be a comedy, or something darker. Instead, it hovers somewhere in-between, allowing Phillips to make his first grown-up film while still not letting go of his comedy comfort zone.

The difference here is that this comedy is sobering, meaning that the laughs on screen are rooted in an uncomfortable reality. It won’t resonate on the same level as The Big Short or The Wolf of Wall Street, but then again, it’s not really trying to.

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