Following in the footsteps of The Big Short and The Wolf of Wall Street, War Dogs is another attempt to make a fast, funny, and relevant political satire. While it may not reach the satirical depth of the previously mentioned films, War Dogs benefits from the charismatic performances from its two leads, who understand that a movie like this can be both hilarious, touching, and terrifying at the same time. Although it borrows stylistically from De Palma and Scorsese amongst others, Todd Phillips creates a surprisingly complex portrayal of the modern arms market, and leaves some moments for genuine emotion between characters.
David (Miles Teller) is a young man living in Miami, struggling through a variety of jobs to support his wife and daughter. After reuniting with Effraim (Jonah Hill), a friend from junior high school, David is exposed to the mysterious world of military contracts, leading the two to join forces to distribute the world’s most dangerous weapons to the most lethal forces. But as they rise to the top of the U.S. Military’s suppliers, the operations become at risk as enemies are forged, and rules are broken.
Teller and Hill are fantastic here; they’re serious actors playing serious roles, yet they know when to play something for laughs. While Teller actually succeeds in creating a relatable character despite doing despicable things, it’s equally impressive how Hill can be a morally treacherous character, yet still win our affection. It’s the charisma that these two actors add to the film that makes it so entertaining, and the character investment in many ways sparks the crazy journey.
The film’s comedy is largely based in absurdism and a wealth of creative dialogue, and Phillips’s efficient directing style makes up for the somewhat familiar story. While it may not divulge in the ethics of the industry as well as it could have, there’s a subtlety in which it approaches the satire, mainly through the intriguing effects of these guys’ operations. War Dogs is often hilarious, occasionally thought provoking, yet always entertaining, and it’s continuous watchability makes it endearing, and a welcome surprise at that. Grade: -A