What is it about the anti-hero? Why do we love him so much? What is it about watching a good guy go BAD that makes us want to cheer him on?
These are a few of the uncomfortable questions I asked myself while watching War Dogs. Director Todd Phillips has a background in comedy (The Hangover movies, Old School) so he poses these questions between chuckles, but the result is like holding a mirror up to our faces.
You thought that was funny? You want them to succeed in this horrible plan? Why?
War Dogs stars Miles Teller and Jonah Hill as two real-life buds who, through a shift in U.S. policies, become arms dealers. They’re able to smoke-and-mirror their way into a multi-million dollar business, but once the lies start, so does the downward spiral. A major lesson is being taught in War Dogs about the business of WAR and how shady deals are made on the regular. The audience is so caught up in the fun these guys are having though, that we don’t question their morality until everything starts to unravel.
Miles Teller plays our hero, David Packouz, and MAN is it nice to see him in a good movie again. Teller is believable as the good-guy who stumbles into a bad-guy business, but it’s Jonah Hill’s portrayal of Efraim Diverole that you won’t be able to look away from. He is dodgy from the onset, but there’s still something about him you want to trust. The movie is almost completely stolen by Bradley Cooper, when he shows up to play the shadiest of shady weapons dealers. Cooper only have a few minutes of screen time, but he kills with it.
The third act of War Dogs is considerably less fun because the Piper needs to be paid. In fact, the movie as a whole isn’t as funny as I expected from Phillips. He borrows a bit too heavily from Goodfellas as well, especially where the soundtrack is concerned. I ALWAYS appreciate a well-placed Pink Floyd track, but why is so much classic-rock featured in a movie based in 2005?
I still enjoyed War Dogs and, even though I’m not sure Todd Phillips meant to make a political statement, it’s pretty damn appropriate for this election season. War Dogs reminds us that shady deals aren’t the work of one political party or even one administration. They flourish even today, thanks to a system that knows it’s broken, but keeps chugging along anyway. And as long as there’s a buck to be made and a good-guy willing to go bad, I guess we’ll keep cheering them on. –B+