Wednesday, August 31, 2016

[Review] War Dogs

Miles Teller and Jonah Hill team up in War Dogs. It's part stoner comedy, part unruly take on the American Dream--containing elements from contemporary flicks like The Interview, Pain & Gain, and The Wolf of Wall Street. But it never reaches the audacious lengths of any of them.

Narrator David (Miles Teller) is sick of wasting away as a massage therapist. His prospects change when his childhood friend Efraim (a sleazy, parachute-pants'd Jonah Hill), who is now an entrepreneurial arms dealer and isn't content with being slapped around (and yes, there's a Scarface mural in his office, because of course there is), makes David a partner. So the two embark on a high stakes mission to ship a load of weapons to the US military in Baghdad. Sounds legit.

There's a lot of exposition to deal with early on, but the weird thing is, once business starts booming the film actually loses most of its potential steam. The midsection is never as comical, dark, or crazy as I'd hoped. It's a middling Wolf of Wall Street. Scorsese-Lite. There's even a brief holiday scene that's backed by Darlene Love's classic "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)", and it's so uninspired that it doesn't even deserve to be chalked up as a nod to Goodfellas. There is a pretty cool slow-motion sequence of Efraim testing out assault rifles during Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here", though.

A subplot about David's pregnant girlfriend being left in the dark attempts to add some emotional heft, but it's eye-rollingly half-hearted. Some late-narrative moralizing, betrayals of friendship, and the obligatory "crime doesn't pay" message come into play, but we've seen this sort of thing done so much better in the past. I rarely use this as a criticism, but it rings entirely true here: The best parts of this film were shown in the trailer, which makes War Dogs a high stakes disappointment.

( 5.5/10 )

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