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Review: War Dogs

Miles Teller and Jonah Hill star in Warner Bros. Pictures' WAR DOGS

From what we’ve been told for a while now, war appears to be about money more than anything else in most instances. That certainly brings into question a number things having to do with morals, foreign practices and things having to do with various countries and their relationships with one another. Not too many focus on that stuff of the people who get rich off of war. The movie War Dogs does, but it doesn’t do it as well as it should have.

This story centers around two friends in the early 20s (Mile Teller and Jonah Hill) who decide to make money off of the Iraq war. In order to do that, they come up with a plan to take advantage of a government initiative that allows small-time arms dealers to make bids on U.S. military contracts. All is well for these guys at first, but they find themselves in more potentially dangerous situations the more successful they become.

Unlike the usual movie about war, War Dogs is a comedy. Some people could take issue with that when looking at how serious war can be, but some will also find that the jokes simply aren’t all that good. While watching, I found myself looking to laugh, but it was difficult finding scenes that allow that to happen.

That’s disappointing with any comedy, but this one contains a large number of comedic situations that they want you to react to. This does some harm to the picture as you may begin to cringe at every failed joke here. Then again, some people may find it funny. That’s cool, but it just isn’t that amusing from where I stand. There are a couple of times where I found myself smirking, but that’s about it.

The tone is also a comedic one that works, but it needed more to save it. I’m willing to bet reducing the attempt at getting laughs and focusing more on the dangers and tragedies that actually happen in war could have improved this drastically. Even if it still turned out to be less than stellar, it would have been an upgrade.

It moves pretty fast, but it’s not really saying a whole lot. The subject matter in War Dogs is definitely worth a movie, but I don’t know if there’s enough material in this actual story to accomplish what it wants to. This is the rare occasion where embellishing for entertainment purposes is warranted. Doing so by adding a little more action and a decent amount of suspense could have done the trick.

It’s weird because I was told by a fellow film critic that a lot was changed from the actual book that it’s based on. If that’s the case, why not try to make it more than what it is? Including more action and drama to increase the level of conflict was the clear way to go. Especially if the story is as shallow as the movie says that it is.

War Dogs isn’t horrible, but it’s not the kind of movie I’d be willing to watch again. It sucks because I was waiting and hoping for things to get better, but they never really do. If the rest of the movie had been better, I could have overlooked the flaws in the comedy since it’s not the kind of failure that destroys a picture as a whole. It does prevent it from being good, though.

With that being the case, I wouldn’t necessarily discourage people from seeing this, but it’s not something I would tell people to go see. In the end, War Dogs is a movie about making money during times of war, but it never feels as if there’s a threat to anyone. Even when there’s a gun pointed to someone’s head, you literally don’t feel as if anything is going to happen. That and the comedy is what prevents it from standing out. Instead, it will fade and disappear rather quickly.

Director: Todd Phillips

Jonah Hill
Miles Teller
Ana de Armas
Bradley Cooper

Film Length: 114 minutes

Release Date: August 19, 2016

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

  • Score - 4/10
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