Todd Phillips / Jonah Hill, Miles Teller, Ana de Armas, Bradley Cooper / Comedy / 2016 / 15 / 114mins
What do you get when you combine arms dealing, white American youths and a silly amount of money? The answer will not surprise you, but War Dogs offers more than simple Trumpian festivities.
You know David Packouz (Miles Teller) is going to get into a little trouble thanks to a deliciously teasing introduction. Rewind a few years: when David learns his girlfriend is pregnant, cocky childhood mate Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill) offers a lifeline – become a gun merchant. It’s certainly a decision lifted out of the Walter White Illogical Cockup Handbook.
With the flashcards, the slow-mo and the freeze-frame tableaux, War Dogs utilises classic comedy techniques to benefit a fantastic first half. Less can be said after the hour mark. The story is coherent enough but it lacks dramatic authority in the key ‘dramatic’ scenes when things, predictably, go tits up.
Something tells me Jonah Hill is fast becoming public comedy gold, but we all know he’s more ambitious than that. Here, Hill is typecast and is not on form. As a funnyman, he’s great contributing to the early comedy. When shit gets serious, he doesn’t step up. He’s a Schmidt Mark II, running around in Jump Street mode. Then again, maybe that’s the genius of War Dogs – naive characters satirically conveying weak decisions.
Basically, I think Teller is the better actor here. Not funnier, more a Jack-of-all-trades that positions his character-narrator well. By comparison, Hill is whiny, a trait that quickly gets boring. The core problem, though, is the lacklustre supporting cast. It’s hit and miss, forcing you to focus on the leading men because no one else is particularly great. Yep – not even Bradley Cooper. There’s just not enough emotional wealth invested for me to enjoy the drama.
Funny? Sure. Dramatic? Nope. War Dogs was brought off the boil too early. It’s a film of two halves, and that’s never entertaining. Hangover instigator Phillips gives it a shot, but ultimately this is The Big Short with big guns smacked with a little Lord of War egoism for kicks. On the plus side, I like that Philips is investing comedy in this way. Imagine if more comedies were this unique?
Film as a film – 3 / Target Audience – 4 / General Audience – 2
War Dogs is in cinemas now
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