Todd Phillips loves a cringe-worthy laugh. Ken Jeong’s ear-drum-breaking cackle in The Hangover series will forever make the soul shudder; now it’s the turn of Jonah Hill to launch the most memorable giggle of the year in the new ‘based on real events’ dramedy War Dogs.
Inspired by Guy Lawson’s 2011 Rolling Stone article ‘Arms and the Dudes’, it stars Miles Teller opposite Hill as two plucky 20-something BFF amateur gun runners, Efraim Diveroli (Hill) and David Packouz (Teller), who land a multi-million dollar contract with the US Government to arm the country’s allies in Afghanistan.
Diveroli’s a big-talking, drug-taking, master manipulator who asks his old school chum Packouz – a soon-to-be father and frustrated massage therapist – to come to work for him at his newly formed company, AEY. Having found a way to make big money off of US military deals, the twosome think they’ve hit the big time when Bradley Cooper’s shady arms dealer, Henry Girard, offers them an opportunity to fulfil one big-ass $300 million contract.
War Dogs feels like it has found an uneasy middle ground in the morally dubious ‘American Dream’ film marketplace, sitting between Martin Scorsese’s monstrously extravagant Wolf of Wall Street and Michael Bay’s hideous Pain and Gain. All three true life tales expose the greed and excess of certain individuals chasing the big bucks, yet Phillips’ entry into this controversial market – for good or bad – doesn’t carry the same weight as its fellow competitors.
Similarly to those previously mentioned, it’s a film meant to shock and amaze; a story so silly, so unbelievable, that it is just that. Yet it neither has the comedic or dramatic chops to fulfil its one true requirement. Hill is once again seen as the comic relief in a ‘serious’ flick, yet beyond the stupid laugh and big aviators, it falls incredibly flat. Teller, an always watchable actor, is given the unenviable task of being the film’s emotional linchpin, as we occasionally drop away from the gun-toting action to find him playing the try-hard, but flawed, family man – the film’s most successful aspect.
A watchable but ultimately disappointingly unmemorable spectacle, War Dogs neither has the heart nor panache to really hit an incredible story for a home-run.