From director Todd Phillips, War Dogs is surprisingly serious in tone.
Based off true events War Dogs follows David, a twenty-something American who has no idea what to do with his life. That is until he teams up with his eccentric school friend Erhaim and his business of selling military hardware to the US military. As the profits mount during President Bush’s war in Iraq, how far can they risk everything?
I don’t think I was in the right mindset for War Dogs. I had expected something of a satire, a more comedic turn on two young Americans failing to run guns across the Middle East. What I didn’t expect was a far more intense perspective on the war and how truly messed up the economy of running weapons really is.
A black comedy this certainly is, and even then it is surprisingly restrained. I may have chuckled a fair few times throughout, purely towards some of the writing which elevated it out of the escalating doom that these characters dig themselves into. A sort of Breaking Bad, only instead of making drugs we are selling guns.
Miles Teller plays David, a quiet young man who finds himself a father-to-be which pushes him into a partnership with Jonah Hill’s character Efraim, who has been making a small fortune for himself selling small items to the US military (and has a fondness for the movie Scarface) Together they manage to get into profits of hundreds of millions. But unlike the free-spirited Efraim, David has a partner, and much of the film’s drama is centred around David being pulled between her and Efraim; two sides of David’s conscience, effectively.
The third act is definitely where things get interesting and the characters come alive in fascinating ways; all very well performed by Hill and Teller (Miles Teller happily bouncing back from last year’s Fantastic Four). Jonah Hill is on fire in this film.
For a film being advertised as a comedy, thinking back on it, I cannot remember a particularly funny moment. This can be damning for the film when its advertised as something it isn’t (I railed against Flight for the same reason) but War Dogs is a decent film at heart; it is honest and effective at selling the characters and the escalation of this film is fantastic. You get exactly what is going to befall our two men. It is a well made movie through and through, and it is great to see Phillips progress out of straight comedies and into more mature subjects.
I would argue that David’s wife is sidelined a little; she flip-flops in her opinions of what he is doing and when they do meet at loggerheads, she’s always arguing the same thing. She didn’t mind getting an amazing high-rise apartment bought from funding the war!
It is a good film all and all, but it isn’t much of a comedy! So if you are expecting The Hangover with war satire, you aren’t going to get it. This is more Lord of War mixed with Breaking Bad.