War. What is it good for? In the case of gung-ho War Dogs, not much. Jonah Hill and Miles Teller head up Hangover director Todd Phillips’s comedy-drama, based on a true story of goofball gun-runners in their 20s. It’s worth a watch on television, but there isn’t much substance behind it.
Hollywood has an odd way of depicting war. Filmmakers are attempting to make the familiar narrative more entertaining by jacking up the action and creating characters that dodge bullets while delivering laughs, similar to Monday morning cartoon characters. That’s exactly what War Dogs is. It’s a very different look at the Iraq War. While it could be funny, War Dogs falls flat and delivers mild entertainment that will pass the time.
The film is based on the absurd true story of Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz, two small-time Miami stoners turned arms dealers who conned their way into a multi-million dollar contract from the Pentagon. The two were opportunists who saw gaps in the market and cut corners to supply arms to the military and even attempted to repackage Chinese bullets to Afghan soldiers. Of course, it wasn’t long until it all came crashing down. War Dogs follows David’s path from a lowly message therapist to millionaire and, ultimately, his conviction of fraud.
It’s not a completely boring affair, but War Dogs never completely commits to being a comedy or a drama. Like Pain and Gain before it, the film delivers a sober look at a group of clowns who got themselves into more trouble than they were capable of dealing with. While it borrows from greats like Scarface and Goodfellas, it never reaches the same ground.
For the most part, the acting isn’t particularly bad, though. Jonah Hill channels his best Joe Pesci; funny in one instance and completely menacing in another. Even though Miles Teller and Bradley Cooper are both interesting, Hill hijacks the entire film from his costars.
War Dogs is an unapologetically bro-y testosterone fest. And while that’s not necessarily the worst thing, it could have been a lot funnier.