Bullets and Bravado

War Dogs

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Director: Todd Phillips

Cast: Miles Teller, Jonah Hill, Bradley Cooper, Kevin Pollak, Julian Sergi, Ana de Armas, Shaun Taub, Mehdi Merali, Wallace Langham

The Hangover director Todd Phillips tries to emulate Scorsese or de Palma in his latest film War Dogs about two twenty something misfits David Packouz and Ephraim Diveroli played by Miles Teller and Jonah Hill respectively, who inadvertently become arms dealers for the US. Government in the twilight of the Bush administration’s War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007.

Unlike Martin Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street or even Brian de Palma’s Scarface, War Dogs does not pack the same visceral shock value. Punctuated by a set of script markers, War Dogs plunders along with a terrible script and a director who clearly should have stuck to comedy.

As an audience member watching Miles Teller and Jonah Hill in this film, one can be forgiven for feeling slightly embarrassed for them. Both actors have produced better work especially Jonah Hill in Moneyball and The Wolf of Wall Street, while Teller was suitably terrified opposite the superb J.K. Simmons in Damien Chazelle’s Oscar winner Whiplash.

The problem with War Dogs, as the action moves from Miami Beach to Amman to Tirana to Las Vegas and back again, is that the film starts off with so much promise, but then fails to deliver. Unlike the marginally better Andrew Niccol’s film Lord of War, War Dogs does not give up its moral compass or ask the audience to judge but merely shows two ambitious young men desperate to earn a fast million in America’s war-mongering capitalist economy prior to the financial crisis hitting in late 2008.

What War Dogs does provide is a theory that war is never about the human conflict but more about the financial business of providing weapons for soldiers fighting in foreign lands. War is a big business, less so in recent years as it has given way to sinister urban terrorism.

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Packouz and Diveroli appear naïve about the ethical implications of the illegal arms business especially when their dangerous dealings get increasingly complicated as they try to supply the US government with Albanian bullets which are actually Chinese through a shady arms dealer Henry Girard played against type by a barely recognizable Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook, American Sniper, Joy, The Hangover). War Dogs also features Cuban actress Ana de Armas as Packouz’s girlfriend Iz.

Despite Jonah Hill emulating his character in The Wolf of Wall Street, his version of Ephraim Diveroli comes off as a fast talking foul-mouthed con-man with a penchant for screwing his partner and having absolutely no moral fibre.

With bullets and bravado, War Dogs fails to deliver, leaving these talented actors floundering with a bad script and a morally skewed film which could have been so much better, not to mention insightful.

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