By: Samar Khan

Let’s get one thing out of the way: War Dogs is a decent movie that is elevated by the sublime performance of one Jonah Hill.

There, that is your synopsis for this brand new feature flick from the creator of The Hangover trilogy, Todd Phillips. The film centres on David Packouz (Miles Teller in the straight man role to complement his over-the-top co-star), a struggling masseuse who gets roped into the international arms dealing game by childhood friend Efraim Diveroli (in another great comedic performance by Jonah Hill). Cue wacky hijinks – including some of the most hilarious ventures into hostile territory I’ve seen in a comedy- and you have the decently entertaining War Dogs.

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Jonah Hill as Efraim Diveroli and Miles Teller as David Packouz in War Dogs.

As mentioned above, the film centres on the relationship between two childhood friends, one of which (Hill’s Efraim) ropes the other in to help run his business. On the surface of it, this is a story that could be brilliant if explored in a drama format that would explore the ramifications of the US Military buying weapons from shady people. Instead, we receive what is every bit a buddy film, with the requisite highs of friendships and lows of betrayal/greed factoring in.

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Miles Teller as David Packouz and Jonah Hill as Efraim Diveroli in War Dogs.

Anyway, back to Hill. He notably bulked up for the role and perfected his already great comedic schtick, elevating the film beyond being merely a buddy flick. Hill infuses his character with certain quirks and charms that are delightfully Hill-ian (I made this word up because it should exist), from the utterly ridiculous high-pitched feminine laugh that never failed to make the audience crack up to the looks of smug bravado that defined his character in The Wolf of Wall Street. His character was already dealing dodgy supplies to people that were trying to acquire weaponry and after getting his Yeshiva schoolfriend (Teller) to sign on, they set their sights on dealing with the US military. One particular scene where Hill goes in high to a business meeting with US Military officials managed to make a scene that could have left so many questions (why did the US Military cut costs in certain areas?) still extremely hilarious due to the inevitable weed-based meltdown that follows.

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Miles Teller as David Packouz and Jonah Hill as Efraim Diveroli in War Dogs.

Miles Teller displays surprising chemistry with Hill, putting forth an admirable performance but failing to match the quality exuded by Hill. His character prevented a two-pronged attack in terms of high-quality comedic moments from the two leads but his level-headedness and inevitable fallout with Hill’s Efraim provided the film with much needed moments of sanity.

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Miles Teller as David Packouz and Jonah Hill as Efraim Diveroli in War Dogs.

If there was a character amongst the cast that didn’t really do anything and may have in fact brought things down a tad, it was Ana de Armas’ Iz. De Armas played the wife of Teller and her character was clearly given a sizable role to add emotional heft to the film but her scenes just dragged. That could be attributed to the lack of chemistry she had with co-star and on-screen husband Teller or because it was plainly obvious she was cast as the cliché “wife of character who doesn’t like her husband’s friend just because.” A lesser role could have accomplished as much but Todd Phillips’ films haven’t exactly been consistent throughout.

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Ana de Armas as Iz and Miles Teller as David Packouz in War Dogs.

Another issue with Phillips’ films that rears its ugly head here is a number of clichés throughout. From the aforementioned useless –to the story- wife, lazy and uninspired music used in buddy films that are a dime a dozen to the use of tired jokes, clichés essentially summarize the film. On the bright side, the one thing from past films that he did re-use wasn’t entirely a waste; that would the cameo of Bradley Cooper, who plays an old school gangster middleman and is constantly on the run from US authorities. Suffice it to say, Bradley Cooper helps elevate his scenes but just doesn’t appear enough to make much of an impact.

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From L-R: Jonah Hill as Efraim Diveroli, Miles Teller as David Packouz and Bradley Cooper as Henry Girard in War Dogs

As mentioned, the soundtrack was mediocre to average, with the cinematography being nothing to write home about either. However, for the sheer craziness of some of the concepts explored in the film (transporting weaponry on their own through Fallujah provided some tense and simultaneously hilarious moments), the film is able to separate itself from the pack.

Don’t go in expecting anything as revolutionary as the first Hangover film but prepare to be wowed by another exceptional performance by Jonah Hill. Seriously, what can’t Jonah Hill do? Drama? Check. Comedy? Check. Here’s to hoping we get to see more of Hill shining in the future.

+ Jonah Hill’s comedic performance

+ Fallujah segment

+ A certain meeting where weed was involved

– Ana de Armas lacked chemistry with co-stars

– Cliches everywhere

We here at The Film Lawyers have awarded War Dogs with a grade of C+ (6.9 / 10).

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