War Dogs is based the true story of David Packouz (Miles Teller) and Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill) who by selling arms to the American government may their fortune through an 'any means necessary' approach to business.
For his last few films Todd Phillips has disgusted us with Hangover sequels. Tales of debauched characters with little/no redeeming qualities have been his forte. This film is no different.
Jonah Hill as Diveroli is particularly vile. His win at all costs attitude and careless disregard for business morals consistently grated on me. This Scarface wannabe has misunderstood the American dream to be a game of win at all costs, make as much money as possible and step on as many people as possible on the way up.
As hateful as the characters and their motives are, even more despicable are the films intentions. Initially I thought the film had promise as early on we are quoted shocking figures on the amount spent per soldier in order to kit them out for war. A comment on modern warfare being a profit first venture gave me a glimmer of hope that was going to be a very different film. However the true nature of the piece was soon quickly identified as the film descended into a glorification of gun culture, profit over conscience and no consideration given for the true cost of conflict.
Incidentally this film is being portrayed, through it's advertising, as a comedy. I feel this is a huge mis-representation. I found there to be nothing to laugh at. I couldn't get away from these gun toting, joint smoking, bigoted, misogynistic opportunists quick enough.
I understand that they are supposed to be portrayed in the manner, but as I sat in the screening I began to reflect on the many similar characters I have witnessed over time on screen and still enjoyed. I thought of Goodfellas and The Wolf of Wall Street and I wrestled with why I enjoyed those films. They had very similar notions and portrayed bad guys brilliantly but I came away from those having enjoyed the respective films. So why could I not enjoy this film?
I came to the conclusion that, while both of the aforementioned films portray bad guys whose motives are questionable, they at least display some glimpses of humanity. Even amidst their numerous flaws,they brought you far enough into their worlds that you found yourself caring for their characters. Packouz and Diveroli have no likeable qualities. Even though Packouz has a wife and child you never feel he truly cares for them. Their primary concern is money and not being seen to be a 'loser'. Even in the final act I was disappointed that nether character had a moment of clarity and turned things around. Until the very last frame of this film the pursuit of happiness for these guys can only be found in the pursuit of the almighty dollar.
Many have said that War Dogs has allowed Todd Phillips to move to a more serious type of film making with this venture. His days of repulsing an audience are over he has become a 'serious film maker'. I would argue that War Dogs has only served to continue his litany of vile creations.
War Dogs is in cinemas from 26 August in the UK.
Thanks to MovieHoue for screening access.