Hot Take: It’s not great cinema but it’s an entertaining enough popcorn flick that fits perfectly into the middle of August.
War Dogs is one of those trips to the theater where you get exactly what expected, in a good way. The cast, the creatives and the trailer attached to the film cultivate the exact movie you’d expect them to produce. There’s something refreshing in that even if the movie is only slightly above average.
Miles Teller and Jonah Hill are the stars. Teller is exactly what you get every time you see him on screen. Hill has proven to have a bit more range and shows it here. The plot is advertised as based on true events. It feels like there is plenty of reality interspersed with Hollywood touches throughout. Director Todd Phillips is best known for The Hangover trilogy. He achieves enough humor and squeezes in enough satire that the film feels different than The Hangover but has some of the same comedic timing. It’s by no means as funny or entertaining as The Hangover but it is better than The Hangover Part III, Phillips’s last directorial effort. The trailer reinforces all of this and, at the same time, doesn’t reveal too much in the process.
There’s a few hiccups in War Dogs. It has a habit of trying to be Goodfellas when, let’s be honest, trying to be Goodfellas isn’t a smart move. Even 26 years later, Goodfellas is too relevant to mimic. If only the movie ended with Teller’s David Packouz breaking the fourth wall and delivering a monologue to the camera like Ray Liotta’s Henry Hill, Phillips and company might have owed residuals. Although that may have been a better ending than the fictionalized one the movie chose for its characters “based on true events.”
There is an opportunity for a well developed female character in War Dogs as Packouz’s wife Iz (Ana de Armas) is portrayed in the film. Unfortunately, this is a missed opportunity as the character is woefully underdeveloped and there as a navigational beacon of how the plot is progressing. Her presence serves as a mere visual moral compass of David’s actions. Despite her charisma and welcome presence, de Armas is given little to nothing to work with.
The film doesn’t need a saving grace but, if it did, it would be Hill. Hill’s performance as Efraim Diveroli has enough shining moments to keep you up at night whenever you happen upon this movie on cable in a few years. Hill steals scene after scene and avoids coming across as cartoonish as some who have been asked to pull off such a role have in the past. Even Joe Pesci in Goodfellas has some cartoonish moments in his great performance in the aforementioned film.
So, recommending War Dogs with precautions is easy. If you watched the trailer and think you’ll be entertained, you’re probably right. If you are a fan of Phillips’ previous work, you’re probably okay here. If you like Teller and/or Hill, War Dogs will satisfy your appetite for entertainment. Otherwise, don’t put this on your watch list.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- Jonah Hill
Worth the price of admission.
- You Get What You Paid For
How ironic is it that a movie about the periphery of the U.S. Defense System of the Bush era is this transparent?
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- Miles Teller
He needs a change of pace and let’s hope Bleed For This is that role. However, Teller isn’t bad in War Dogs, just the same as he always is which is becoming stale.
- A Goodfellas Rip-Off
The style and structure is so similar it’ll probably be mentioned in 50% of the reviews.