Set in Florida in 2005, David Packouz (Miles Teller) is a down-and-out massage therapist who becomes a multi-millionaire when he teams up with a high-school friend, Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill), supplying weapons to the U.S. government.

Directed by Todd Phillips (The Hangover, 2009) and produced by Bradley Cooper, War Dogs is a rags to riches tale in which we see the true story of David (Teller) – a down on his luck massage therapist who sunk his life savings in to bed sheets he can’t sell. Whilst attending a funeral in his home town, he reconnects with an old school friend, Efraim (Hill), a larger than life wannabe entrepreneur who agrees to let David in on his latest business venture. As David narrates us through this stylised vision of corporate crime, it isn’t long before the duo have expanded their office in to a multi-million dollar arms dealing business and secured the biggest gig of their lives – a $300 million government contract supplying weapons to the U.S. allies in Afghanistan with the help of the mysterious wanted man, Henry Girard (Bradley Cooper).

Presented as a comedy, for which Phillips is primarily famed for, War Dogs in actuality presents a far more serious subject matter. Opening to scenes from the Iraq front, we are given a run down of the sheer cost to kit out an American soldier for which each is supplied with $17,500 worth of kit. Multiply that by the eight million soldiers who fought and you’ve got some serious figures at the hands of the private arms contractors President Bush welcomed in the 2000s. The more shocking part of the narrative, of course, being that two twenty-something stoners were able to get in on the deal and get away with it for so long. So while there are plenty of laughs to be had at some highly amusing moments, War Dogs is not to be sniggered at.

Jonah Hill is a major part of what War Dogs so pleasing. As Efraim – an utterly dislikeable yet very entertaining and larger-than-life character, Hill once again shows his versatility as both a serious and comedic actor. Hill is able to keep us on our toes throughout as we battle with deciding whether or not he is genuine. There are times when his role diverts back to The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese, 2014) which first showcased Hill’s abilities within an antagonistic role. Similarly, War Dogs allows Hill to transition from wannabe gangster with a Scarface poster on his wall to full-on firing an AK-47 centre screen. Hill literally steals the show at gunpoint. Teller as David, however, presents a more bias protagonist of the two who, whilst being a failed drop out and following Efraim on his path of bad decisions, maintains a faint voice of reason yet always driven by a want to provide for his family. Ultimately, Teller offers a solid performance and it is clear that the duo have chemistry though Hill’s performance certainly dulls any potential shine Teller could have had.

There do appear to be times when War Dogs is unsure of its own identity and it struggles to balance the topic of war against a glamorous portrayal of a criminal lifestyle; appearing to draw its inspiration from Phillip’s The Hangover, The Big Short (Adam McKay, 2015) and, of course, The Wolf of Wall Street. Much like Scorsese, the film is heavily led by male roles with only one prominent female character being David’s pregnant and disapproving girlfriend (Ana de Armas) who is criminally underwritten. Presented only as a mild cause for concern down the phone, her role seems futile and emerges rather forgettable. With the right style, dark wit and even one of its leading stars, War Dogs so nearly accomplishes what it sets out to do yet it falls just a little short of Scorsese – let down only by its video music-like slow motion scenes and overall cinematography. In its entirety, however, it is highly entertaining in it’s own right.

Overall, War Dogs emerges as a true success for Phillips as he enters in to the realms of dramatic storytelling. Hill shines as an obnoxious hustler amongst a truly meaningful and compelling true story – even if it does lose itself in parts along the way.

Movie Review: War Dogs
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Sophie is a film blogger from South London with a degree in Film Theory and Major Production. Sophie currently works in digital marketing but in her spare time you'll find her writing reviews or at the cinema. Sophie loves all things Star Wars and Hollywood but having specialized in the Horror genre, monsters are her first love. She'll watch absolutely anything given the chance - you can find her also on her blog, Twitter: