Following on in the footsteps of David Gordon Green and Adam McKay, the man behind comedic endeavours such as The Hangover, Old School and Road Trip, Todd Phillips, is trying his hand in a war drama, with the politically inclined War Dogs – of two childhood friends who eventually become major arm dealers, based entirely on a true story.
The film begins with David Packouz (Miles Teller) in Albania, in the middle of nowhere with a gun pointed directly at his head. Needless to say, we gather that things do not go exactly as initially planned. Fast forward a few years and David is massaging rich, middle-aged men in Miami for a decent wage, but with his girlfriend Iz (Ana de Armas) pregnant, he’s anxious he won’t be able to provide enough. But then his old friend and shady entrepreneur Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill) comes back to town with a business proposal, starting up a company that seek to exploit the ongoing Iraq War, by bidding on military contracts. With the money rolling in and the business growing at a fast rate, they find themselves vying for a 300m dollar deal, and collaborating with the elusive Henry Girard (Bradley Cooper) – which changes everything.
With an opening scene that lets the viewer know everything takes an unfortunate turn, it adds a vital foreboding element to proceedings, injecting a tried and tested technique that enriches the experience. The two lead roles are, for the most part, reprehensible and a struggle to get on board with, but thankfully given Teller’s distinctive amiability, he allows for us to invest and care for his cause. He’s outshone by his counterpart however, as Hill turns in a deliciously creepy display, proving he has a real aptitude for roles of this nature, given arguably his very finest performance to date came in Cyrus. The actor epitomises the tone of the film that Phillips is vying to achieve, eccentric, unpredictable and intense.
Regrettably, however, the character of Iz is not nearly as well-rounded. The protagonists are so vocal in how heavily inspired they are by Scarface, which is alluded to throughout, you can’t help but feel Phillips could’ve taken a leaf out of Oliver Stone’s book, and craft a much more nuanced female counterpart to the film’s leading antiheroes. Another qualm derives from the depiction of the world outside of America, with other nations they fly to spoken of only as being third-world and second-rate, such as when they claim Albania is a bleak, desolate place. It’s actually meant to be rather lovely this time of year. So there.