film reel image

film reel image

Friday, August 19, 2016

War Dogs 2016 * * * 1/2 Stars

Director: Todd Phillips
Year: 2016
Rated R
Rating: * * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Jonah Hill, Miles Teller, Bradley Cooper

The rise and fall of the American dream gets the veritable Todd Phillips treatment. And after 15 years of directing explicit comedies, he decides to venture elsewhere with the meta-drama, War Dogs (my latest review). Good for him. "Dogs" closely resembles the 2006 vehicle Lord of War except that it's far from dull. With a certain amount of flamboyance, a more entertaining flow, and Bradley Cooper in a steely-eyed, supporting role, War Dogs is the kind of movie Lord of War wish it could have been. Bravo Todd the bod. You went out of your comfort zone to channel a little Martin Scorsese (the use of freeze frames, voice-over narration, and freewheeling camera movement) and the result is one of 2016's best. "War, huh good God, y'all". Indeed.

Anyway, "Dogs" is based on a true story and takes place anywhere between Miami Beach, Florida to Albania to Jordan to the largest city in Iraq (that would be um, Baghdad). There are decent performances from the two leads (Jonah Hill and Miles Teller), a favorable use of dialogue-inserted title cards, and biting soundtrack tunes spanning at least four decades. Yeah I was a little unfulfilled with the way "Dogs" ended or if it even had an actual ending. No matter. This Warner Bros. release is sumptuous in every frame. Whether it's giving us long shots of high-rise condos in South Florida, rapid editing by way of business computers (and bookkeeping), plenty of characters smoking dubage, and even a poolside scene straight out of Scarface (the flick War Dogs references frequently), "Dogs" is a step above most cinema endeavors that have hit theaters in the dog days of August. Just call director Todd Phillips the surprising lovechild of 90's Scorsese and Andrew Niccol. The only difference is that he is not quite as self-serious.

With a running time of just under 2 hours (114 minutes to be exact) and featuring the stunning Ana de Armas (Knock Knock, Exposed) as its love interest, War Dogs chronicles two twentysomethings named Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill) and David Packouz (Miles Teller). David lives with his pregnant girlfriend and is just getting by financially with his massage and (nursing home) bed sheet businesses. Efraim is his best friend and just happens to be an arms dealer operating out of Los Angeles. Hill's character saddled with plenty of cockiness and will, takes David out of his life of doldrums all the while showing him how to make some real money. They team up to form a company and land a $300 million dollar arms deal that gets them in over their heads. There are random bits of humor here, suggestive language, a slight of hand towards the Bush administration, some mild violence, and plenty of guns (duh). Ultimately, this is Todd's best and most full-grown work. He should do films like this more often and stop resorting to his frat boy tendencies. Rating: 3 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

No comments:

Post a Comment