Review: War Dogs

By Christian DiMartino

I know I am tardy in reviewing War Dogs, but ya know, I do this for you, not me. You just keep that in mind. This was not a film that I was particularly excited for, and perhaps I wasn’t in the right mood. But in all honesty, War Dogs is a film that just didn’t do it for me, despite its many efforts to please.

The usually reliable Miles Teller (I say usually because, here and there, he does terrible movies, like Fantastic Four and That Awkward Moment) plays David, a guy who just doesn’t know what he wants out of life. He begins as a masseuse, and then ends up selling blankets at a retirement home. Even he is bored with his own story. He has a hot wife (Ana De Armas). Yada yada. But his life is turned upside down (though it doesn’t quite appear that way) when he runs into Efraim (Jonah Hill) at a funeral.

The two were best friends in junior high, and were total trouble. David grew out of the troubled phase. Efraim doesn’t appear to have. When they take a visit to a drug dealer, Efraim is basically robbed, and he goes to his trunk and pulls out a machine gun. The wild card-ness to Hill’s performance amounts to some amusing moments. Anyways, David soon learns that Efraim (what kind of name is that? I mean it’s a true story and all but I’m just sayin’) is an arms dealer for the government. Looking for a way out of his boring life, David decides to join forces with Efraim, even though he realizes the dangers involved.

Almost everyone I was with seemed to be enjoying themselves, and raved about it once it was over. So, what’s my damage? Why do I have to piss on the parade? Well, I won’t tell you its awful. What I will tell you is that, despite its solid performances and its entertainment value, War Dogs seemed like a film that was too pleased with itself.

The film is directed by Todd Philips, who is mostly known for movies like The Hangover and Old School. I suppose this is the most mature film he’s made. But I couldn’t help but feel like he thought he was making something along the lines of The Big Short (that film was directed by Adam McKay of Anchorman and Step Brothers, and it worked) and The Wolf of Wall Street. I felt like Philips felt like he was onto something huge, hence why there are title cards throughout the film that display quotes that are soon to be revealed, as if the line was SO GOOD that he needed to point it out twice.

I really just felt like I sat there with a blank face most of the time. The performances from Hill, Teller, and Armas are solid. It is fairly entertaining, and it turns out to be a fairly interesting story. But I found its attempts at humor familiar. I also just couldn’t personally invest myself in these characters. And I also can’t help but think about the familiarity here. It seemed like something we’ve seen before. Watch Lord of War, that underrated Nicolas Cage/Jared Leto movie. You’re better off.

I heard someone on the radio yesterday say there was Oscar buzz surrounding this movie. I wasn’t aware, but if that’s the case, then this race has got to be pretty lame. Maybe as lame as the attempts at humor in this film. Maybe I missed the joke.

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