Starring Miles Teller, Jonah Hill, Ana de Armas, Bradley Cooper, Kevin Pollak, Shaun Toub & Patrick St. Esprit
Directed by Todd Phillips
Try as I might, I simply cannot get into Miles Teller, and it takes a tough critic to swallow his pride and proclaim that, despite my personal views, he does a terrific job in War Dogs. He’s arrogant and narcissistic with the most punchable face in Hollywood, and I go into any film starring the man with a hesitancy. But he’s a good actor, and though he may never rise to the absolute peak of acting ability he certainly has his place. It’s been a slow train coming but he’s starting to shine.
So I’ve got this ‘hate-love-hate myself’ relationship with War Dogs. It’s got the ingredients for a recipe that I love. It’s grounded (sort of… not really), it’s gritty and it’s real. It’s a biographical film but it doesn’t constantly remind the audience by bogging itself down as a drama. The script is incredibly light for what is a story about arms dealers, so War Dogs looks and feels more like a work of fiction. But enjoying a film about two reprehensible individuals does leave me with a feeling in the pit of my stomach. I won’t get on my horse but I’m not much for war and violence, so David Packouz isn’t a man I would bother associating with, and Efraim Diveroli I regard even less.
Plainly stated, the way Todd Phillips and the screenwriters have approached these men works. I’m sure there was an entirely unexplored aspect of the manipulative Diveroli, but did we want to see a deep and meaningful examination of Packouz’s humanity or a story of two twenty-something idiots chasing the almighty dollar? The screenwriters made a judgement call and it paid off. It’s a hard ask of your audience to sympathise with unlikeable people, but there’s enough development to make the two into characters. There’s also no political commentary regarding the implied depravity of arms dealership. The film is dedicated solely to the absurd situation they found themselves in, and it’s far more enjoyable for doing so.
It would have been good to depict the shadier aspects that were omitted, but it would have been at the expense of the black comedy that makes War Dogs a fairly unique film. It takes enough time out to criticise these two for their abhorrent attitudes but Phillips wanted to entertain first, and he has. So it won’t sweep the Oscars. Oh well. We’ll just have to settle for good enough, something Diveroli and Packouz just couldn’t do.