Director: Todd Phillips
Starring: Jonah Hill, Miles Teller, Ana de Armas
No summer is complete without at least one good buddy comedy, and this year we’ve seen a myriad of films battling out to be the best of the season: “The Nice Guys”, “Neighbors 2”, and “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates”, to name a few. Now, a new competitor: “War Dogs”. While “War Dogs” isn’t entirely amazing or revolutionary, the film is still resoundingly good, thanks to the star power of Miles Teller and Jonah Hill.
“War Dogs” follows young David Packouz (Miles Tellers), who is caught in a rough patch during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. David’s a smart guy – he works hard (but maybe smokes a little too much weed), and he’s really just trying to make the ends meet in his life. However, when misfortune strikes David for the umpteenth time, he is persuaded by his childhood friend Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill) to get into the arms dealing business. Thus the two set out to deliver weapons to the US military, often bending laws to do so, and most definitely toeing the line of morality.
When we first saw Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum on the screen together for “21 Jumpstreet”, we really didn’t think that we could love an on-screen pair more. But, Miles Teller may be able to give Tatum a run for his money as Hill’s new comedic counterpart. In a film featuring two guys doing some atrocious stuff, David stays likable for its duration, and it is entirely due to Teller’s magic. He completely comes off as a young dude whose life merely went a little off course, and for everything that goes wrong with the Efraim’s plans, David is never to blame.
Efraim is a different story. In a role that’s uncommon for Jonah Hill, who is usually at home playing the awkward nerd of the story, Hill gives a truly unique performance. He’s a fat guy with the confidence of a Calvin Klein model, and a strange chortle that in itself makes people laugh. Efraim is more than a terrible person; he’s also an actor and uses various personae to get what he wants from people. Playing this manipulative side of the man gives Hill a great opportunity to show his range. Although he’s often the more timid character in comedies, “War Dogs” sees Hill effortlessly rolling off racial slurs that make even the toughest audience member cringe.
Let’s discuss the director, Todd Phillips, who’s been sitting in time-out since he finished the third “Hangover” movie. The man should be proud, because “War Dogs” is putting him back on his feet. Still, he hasn’t fully recovered to his former glory from the original “Hangover” movie. “War Dogs” has a great flow, and the narration through David’s point of view is done well. But the film is overall lacking in message, and also predictable. When David first enters the movie as the narrator, he introduces the audience to the fiscal costs of war – which we all know are hefty – by throwing numbers at us. From this, it appears as though Phillips is going to make a point about all this money, but he never does. The carefully researched intro just goes out the door.
“War Dogs” is not nearly a perfect film, and without Jonah Hill and Miles Teller, it wouldn’t even be a good film. Fortunately, the two of them drag Phillips’ movie out of uncharted territory, and make it memorable with their performances. With that being said, Phillips has majorly improved his work since “The Hangover Part III”, and if he keeps this trend up, we can hope for some great comedies in the coming years.