If you’re a fan of films such as Road Trip and The Hangover trilogy you were likely excited to see that director Todd Phillips was back in the spotlight with his latest film War Dogs. From the initial trailers the film looked to be another fun journey for a few friends who naturally get themselves in way too deep with the wrong people. However, from the first five to ten minutes of the film I was able to see that this was meant to be more of a The Wolf of Wall Street variety, following the successes and failures of two young men engaging in mostly illegal business.
The story follows two young men in their mid twenties, played by Jonah Hill and Miles Teller, who were best friends in high school and had a history of getting into trouble with the law. Teller’s character is a massage therapist for wealthy people on Miami Beach with a side business of selling bed sheets to retirement facilities. Hill’s character has recently split off from a business he had with his uncle that involved buying seized guns at police auctions and reselling them on the web. When the two friends reunite and become war dogs, individuals who bid in the weapons market to sell to the military, the journey begins and the stakes are raised.
Director Todd Phillips has the ability to create chemistry between actors that most would think wouldn’t work together. In “The Hangover” audiences saw Bradley Cooper, who also had a role in “War Dogs”, team up with Ed Helms and Zack Galifianakis. Before this film Cooper was not necessarily known for his comedic abilities, which made “The Hangover” a better experience that was popular enough to warrant two sequels. The chemistry between Teller and Hill is truthfully one of the most consistently entertaining parts of “War Dogs” on a dramatic and comedic level.
What frustrated throughout however was that the film was very clearly marketed as a comedy. While the film is allowed to be funny most of those funny moments were in the trailer with the remaineder of the film playing more with dramatic and action packed themes. This is an ongoing issue with the film industry in recent years. I was okay with the movie being a bit darker and dialogue-heavy than it was advertised but there were others in my theater who walked out scratching their heads and uttering the phrase “Was that actually a comedy?” If there were no trailer made for this film and everyone was able to walk into it unaware of everything but the title, I believe that it would’ve been well received.
I was very happy to see the range displayed by Todd Phillips. It is very easy for a successful comedy director to just continue churning out mediocre movies and be content with being “that comedy guy” forever. Phillips has shown the world that he is capable of working with other genres while still displaying his strengths, that people love him for. The scenes that were meant to be more on the dramatic side did tend to drag on for a little too long and felt boring. This was not by any means his best work, but it was a very strong addition to his film collection.
Despite the pitfalls I was satisfied with War Dogs. The story had the excitement, humor, intrigue and action that I love in films. The casting was appropriate for the characters to seem realistic (Jonah Hill has proven again that he can play the best slime ball ever). Regardless of how well War Dogs ends up doing, I really hope that this is just the first of many films like this one, from this director.