Todd Phillips channels his inner Scorcese with his latest offering, the black comedy War Dogs, which features Jonah Hill and Miles Teller in the lead roles.
The comparison above relates only to the style in which War Dogs plays out, with the use of voice-over by its lead protagonist to relay the events of the film, its stranger than fiction story and larger than life characters, though it lacks the depth of a typical Scorcese film.
In War Dogs, Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill) and David Packouz (Miles Teller), two Miami stoners in their early twenties amass a fortune selling guns to the American government, for use by their soldiers in the recent Iraq war. However things start to turn sour between the friends once egos and greed enter the picture.
It’s an unbelievable true story, one that caught the attention of director Todd Phillips after first reading an article about it in Rolling Stone magazine, and has all the perfect hallmarks for a film adaptation. The story is one of the film’s best attributes, while also being a commentary on the classic American Dream and capitalist culture. Efraim and David, the appropriately dubbed War Dogs, managed to score a massive three-hundred million dollar defence contract, simply by working their way up in bidding on, and winning many smaller contracts out of the thousands offered by the U.S. Government during the late 2000’s Iraq war period.
Miles Teller and Jonah Hill give life to their characters in excellent fashion, with Teller’s David Packouz being the likeable, more level-headed of the two, compared to Hill’s Efraim Diveroli, the reckless achiever with a win-at-all-costs attitude. Hill steals the show with his performance, using his natural comedic abilities to add humour to the film, nailing that aspect. Bradley Cooper adds a bit of extra star-power to the lineup and his performance is fine, but not very memorable.
War Dogs is Todd Phillips’ first non-pure comedy film and for the most part he gets it right. The story is interesting, the characters are engaging, and the film hits the mark as a light take on a story that could’ve easily been swung in a serious direction. When comparing War Dogs to any film by Scorcese, it’s fair to say Phillips borrows a fair bit from the great director in his direction of the style of the film, but its focus is on providing instant gratification to the audience, rather than building up the characters to a point where the audience can feel attached and empathise with them.
Looking at the film from a distance and without dissecting it too deeply, War Dogs is highly entertaining and doesn’t disappoint. That’s all that matters for a film like this, one that doesn’t take itself too seriously and has interesting characters, a great story and great performances.
The real Efraim Diveroli declined to meet with Jonah Hill. Hill said “I’m used to it. If a person is aggressively against me playing them, it’s probably a good sign.”
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