Let slip these pups of war
Directed by Todd Phillips Starring Jonah Hill, Miles Teller, Ana de Armas, Bradley Cooper Cert 15A, gen release, 116mins When War Dogs grows up, it really, really wants to be Goodfellas. Or at least The Wolf
of Wall Street. It’s got the blaring pop soundtrack, yakking in diner booth scenes, and a classic rags-to-riches-to-uh-oh trajectory.
And, in common with the listed Scorsese pictures, a great deal of what happens in War
Dogs is true. Kinda. Towards the end of George W Bush’s presidency, as conflict rumbled on in the Middle East, the demands for military supplies became so great any unscrupulous loser might bid for contracts with the Pentagon.
Enter unscrupulous stoners David Packouz (Miles Teller) and Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill), two twentysomething unreconstructed bros who stumble into a $300 million contract to supply the Afghan military with millions of rounds of AK-47 ammunition. Skulduggery is mandatory.
Working with screenwriters Stephen Chin and Jason Smilovic, Hangover director Todd Phillips takes liberties early and often with a story first recounted by Guy Lawson in Rolling Stone magazine. Cue a daring, entirely fictional smuggling operation through Iraq and a neat good arms dealer (Teller); bad arms dealer (Hill) dichotomy.
War Dogs offers an ironic “huzzah” for what Diveroli calls “Dick Cheney’s America” as our two bros cavort and snort to the strains of Behind
Blue Eyes. Get it? Trouble is, it’s not nearly ironic enough. There’s nothing like the lengthy paranoia and decline that one finds in the Scorsese pictures that War
Dogs hopes to emulate. The most threatening figure in the movie is a “legendary arms dealer” played by Bradley Cooper, for goodness sake. Any possible consequences and negative side-effects are glossed over in favour of giddy (and ultimately repetitive) montages. Why let death and destruction get in the way of a good bro-story?
It’s not all bad news. There are moments when War Dogs approximates the effective politics-channelling comedy of
The Big Short, with entertainingly presented facts and figures; Teller and Hill make for great screen buddies; and, bar the occasional lull, Phillips keeps the movie rattling along.
Miles Teller and Jonah Hill make great screen buddies