War Dogs (2016)
Release Date: August 19, 2016
Cast: Jonah Hill, Miles Teller, Ana de Armas, J.B. Blanc, Bradley Cooper
Director: Todd Phillips
Studio: Green Hat Films, Joint Effort Productions, The Mark Gordon Company
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Genre(s): Biographical crime comedy
Review Spoilers: Low
Based On “The Stoner Arms Dealers: How Two American Kids Became Big-Time Weapons Traders” by Guy Lawson at Rolling Stone
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It’s hard to miss a mark when you cast Miles Teller and Jonah Hill together in any movie. The duo has a strong grasp of comedic timing with the ability to take the weight of a dramatic role without making it hollow. Together, Teller and Hill bring all the charisma and charm that is necessary for a story that involves two guys in their twenties going into the international weapons industry.
Hill plays the enigmatic, eccentric, and potentially sociopathic Efraim Diveroli, the president of AEY Inc., a small-time weapons trading business. Teller plays Efraim’s childhood best friend David Packouz, a massage therapist working in Miami just trying to scrape by. The story follows their incredibly lucrative private arms dealing career, as they rise from small-time dealers chasing crumbs to a big-time business that conducts business contracts with the Pentagon.
Hill’s performance is entrancing to watch, both an arrogant and ambitious character, Efraim is unrelenting in his business acumen, willing to do just about anything to claw to the top of the heap. His moral compass, David, is meant to be both a voice of reason, as well as prey to Efraim’s charms and manipulation.
Split up into oddly cut chapters, the story documents the massive rise and fall of AEY, but takes it misstep when it comes to hitting its mark. While it revels in the successes of Efraim and David, it weakly details both the repercussions and the lesson viewers are supposed to walk away with. While both characters have a big presence on screen, the story telling is lacking and can only push the characters so far.
There is an odd sense of an incomplete story, with too clean of an ending and not enough weight to truly keep it down. There’s no real surprise that comes to the downfall of AEY, because the plot takes expected twists and turns. David’s anti-war stance initially proves to be a potential fountain of vulnerability for the characte, as well as his girlfriend Iz’s (Ana de Armas) apprehension to his job. But neither are a real obstable for him. Perhaps in an attempt to show Efraim’s manipulative abilities, David is willing to throw everything aside for AEY and the company, which leads to an eventual loss of all the personal connections in his life.
The characterisation that Efraim is an actor who puts on a face and a personality for whoever he’s talking to, to show them whatever they want to see, is one of the stronger aspects of the film. Jonah Hill’s interpretation of a guy with a weird laugh and a big sense of self is just alluring enough for the viewer to be drawn in.
There’s a certain life that both Hill and Teller bring to the film that can’t be denied. Their chemistry together on screen is thoroughly convincing, and they are the powerhouses in driving through a rather predictable narrative.
Final Thoughts: With no real spectacle to behold, no strong message or lesson, War Dogs is a bit deflated, though the Hill Teller dynamic duo keeps some life and charm to an otherwise predictable, but enjoyable movie.