Release Date: August 19, 2016
Directors: Todd Phillips
Writer: Stephen Chin, Todd Phillips
Cast: Miles Teller, Steve Lantz, Gregg Weiner, David Packouz, Eddie Jemison, Julian Sergi, Daniel Berson, Jonah Hill, Edson Jean, Damion Johnson, Bethuel Fletcher, Ana de Armas, Kevin Pollak, Gabriela Alvarez, Dan Bilzerian, Ali Chen, Patrick St. Esprit, Jeremy Tardy, Ashley Spillers, Alisa Allapach, Tucker Merrick, Mosa Omari, Mansour Badri, Mohammed Omari
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 114 minutes
Production Company: Green Hat Films, The Mark Gordon Company, Warner Bros.
Genre: Comedy, Drama, War
Language: English, Arabic, Albanian, Romanian
Budget: $45,000,000 (estimated)
If you didn’t already know, billions of dollars have been spent on wars throughout the decades. It’s a profitable and disgusting line of business in some sorts. And who better to bring that to the forefront than director of the Hangover Trilogy, Due Date, Old School, Starsky & Hutch, and Road Trip, Todd Philips. Being known for his comedic chops in his past films, War Dogs shows that he still has serious-toned storytelling skills up his sleeve. While not losing his directorial style, he captures the important moments necessary to paint a vivid picture. The film is based on a true story about greed, money, power, and war; and Phillips is able to bring life to it in a way everyone can relate to.
When a true story is being marketed amongst the public, I think about the money that’s involved to bring it to production. With only so many slots each year for film releases, if I’m told a story is true it better be worth telling. War Dogs is worth telling for more than one reason. It scratches the surface on the back end deals of weapon distribution, whether acquired through the U.S. government or the black market. On top of that, it shows the importance of family, being honest with those you love, and the consequences if those gestures aren’t respected. For being so vast in the subject matters it touches on, the film is able to contain it all in a simplistic cohesive form that not only brings you to laughter, but makes you reevaluate those around you that you may care for. It also has underlying themes of sacrifice and knowing when to walk away from a situation. It spoke on so many levels and had two great characters to bring it all together.
Those characters are David Packouz (Miles Teller), and Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill). If the story was written from David’s perspective, they did a great job including so much of his personal life. It was a surprise to see how much time was spent with his family, but it was necessary to see due to it being the sole reason for him being a gun runner. The man was trying to provide for his family. He didn’t come across as the lazy type that made excuses, but the type of man that worked hard, but hasn’t found his true niche yet. It’s something we all can relate to, which makes you get behind his character. The look of Miles Teller is compassionate, and I couldn’t have thought about another casting choice. Even beyond that, Jonah Hill did even better, stealing the show. It goes without saying that Hill is Oscar worthy. Not necessarily with this particular film, but he’s a chameleon when the director says action. Starting out with silly college party films, Hill since then literally becomes every character that’s been thrown at him inside and out. I may have not loved the actual real life character too much, but the performance behind it was outstanding.
No one likes a film that’s predictable, and this one was far from it. I say that not knowing the real story or how this film would end. It was exciting seeing these two men on their journey to greatness just trying to make a living. An opportunity fell in their laps, so why not take advantage of it. Part of the enjoyment of it all comes from the 180 degree turn David’s life takes in only a number of weeks. One moment he’s doing a not so desirable job, and then the next thing you know he’s running guns through the triangle of death. It’s such a hilarious notion, and it’s entertaining seeing these two take control of their destiny. If each of them had a tattoo, it would probably say, “You only live once,” because they took advantage of whatever they were presented with.
War Dogs is a fascinating film that I recommend to everyone of all ages. Whether you’re at a theater or at home, it’s worth viewing. Much respect goes to director Todd Philips, who brought this to life with such a great straightforward approach to telling the story to where you’re enriched and constantly laughing. Not all of his films have been the greatest (especially the last two Hangover films), but this one rises to the top of the list. The ending is ambiguous, which piques your interest to know more and makes you ask the question, “Is it all worth it?” That’s a question we all should ask, as it can lay the path for one’s future.