Where frat meets hustle. Based on true events, this is about a pair of young businessmen who fly by the seat of their pants (Miles Teller, Jonah Hill). This is the story of how they underbid all potential competitors and won the bid from the Pentagon to arm allies in Afghanistan. Now here is a movie that is as promising as can be. You’ve got two actors who have played major roles in Oscar nominated films. You have director Todd Phillips, who knows how to put together a party movie, so much so that he has made an entire career out of doing this. While I did walk away feeling positive from War Dogs, I can’t help but feel that it left a bucket load of potential at the table.
This is a move that got plastered at its own party and passed out before it could remember to bag and store all of the leftover food.
The reason why this works as well as it does is the fact that it is based on a true story. You are watching two men get well in over their head, and they quickly find more success than they know what to do with, so you can relate to it on that base level. Both Teller and Hill know how to sell something like this, and they have the talent to pull it off, but neither one of them are playing particularly likable characters. I’m about ready for Miles Teller to be in a non-smarmy role, or he is going to be in danger of becoming the next Christopher McDonald. I don’t feel like Hill has that problem, but it is kind of distracting how much his weight fluctuates from movie to movie (you’re genuinely concerned for him from a health perspective). He also has this high pitch recurring laugh in this that is kind of obnoxious and grating.
It’s a trick that actors do to make characters more memorable: give them a tick so as to leave an impression.
I feel like if this had a knockout script, we would all be talking about one of the very best films of the year. War Dogs has nothing but potential, and if this had more care taken in the writing department, this could have been The Wolf of Wall Street of gunrunning. As it stands, we just got a decent movie that will likely be all but forgotten in a couple of years because of execution. For another example, this entire movie is broken up by title cards that feature a single line from the upcoming scene, and it serves no purpose other than to segment the movie out. It’s distracting for no reason. Still, I was engaged by this movie for its entirety, as it does move fast enough, I just wanted more from it by the time it was wrapping up.
War Dogs (2016) ***1/2
– Critic for Hire