Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini

War Dogs

War Dogs
Jonah Hill, Miles Teller, Bradley Cooper and Kevin Pollak 

Rated: R for language throughout, drug use and some sexual references.
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: August 19, 2016 Released by: Warner Brothers

Stoner buds who get in trouble by way of scandalous deals, bribery, forgery, and confrontations with infidels happens to be right up the alley of filmmaker and co-writer Todd Phillips in probably his most entertaining feature since The Hangover.

Phillips, having been part of the writing team on Borat, knows his way around the lewd and gloom with a cynical eye especially at the Dubya administration in War Dogs. Afterwards it's evident the whole isn't as pungent and perilously fun as the hiccups which happen when Miami Beach pothead bros unite in selling weapons to the U.S. government, namely The Pentagon.

The filmmaking senses the possibility of the short stories from involvement in the Iraq War circa 2004-2007 cobbled together in Guy Lawson's Rolling Stone article 'Arms & The Dudes'. In a loose, if slick interpretation that lets a heavier Jonah Hill (Sausage Party, 22 Jump Street) and Miles Teller (Fantastic Four, Whiplash) emerge as a decent comic duo.

Teller's 20ish David Packouz ekes out an existence as a masseur, but gets lucky during a funeral in reuniting with estranged friend, the more belligerent, cutthroat Efraim Divenoli (a hustling Hill actually in his early 30s). He lures Packouz into his business which entails some of the amusing dialogue that gives meaning to the title in how they are the feeders for government contractors via an unclassified website. They'll get in over their heads as part of a scheme that lands them a $300 million contract with Afghanistan.

David is the narrator who gives the film its voice as the proceedings take a more somber path though with enough levity as a shady middleman in Bradley Cooper's Henry Girard is crucial to their ascent but also precariousness as better packaging is necessary for munitions like Chinese AK-47 bullets. Berretta and pistol distribution is in their wheeling-and-dealing as Efraim is backed by a Jewish dry-cleaning magnate (Kevin Pollak) who believes that his associate is helping the Israelis.

From Vegas to the Middle East, as well as Albania where thugs give David (with a beauteous live-in lover Iz, Ana de Armas) a good going-over in this flash backing yarn, the production styling including freeze-framing recalls Martin Scorsese mob epics like Goodfellas and Casino. War Dogs lacks the genuine verisimilitude of its subject and the professions (as well as those who populate it), but there's a contrast between the more concerned, if mercurial David and his go-for-broke counterpart whose touchstone is the sweeping 'American Dream' yarn Scarface (the film's poster obviously is a parody of the iconic Brian DePalma/Al Pacino collaboration)

To Philliips's credit, however, more interest is generated than expected from the 'Odd Couple' pairing of Hill and Teller even if the storyline especially surrounding Efraim's wealthy enterprise predicated on death and political unrest leaves a few crumbs on the floor. And, a noticeable ambiguity, too, like Adam McKay's wryly penetrating take on the housing-bubble crisis.

  Frank Chris Jim Dave Nina Matt Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
War Dogs  B      B-   B      B         B   B 

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