This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, August 2016
War Dogs stars Jonah Hill and Miles Teller as, improbably, arms dealers in their mid-20s making dodgy deals between corrupted war-torn countries and the US Military.
It’s not awful; it just isn’t any good. And this is disappointing – not because War Dogs is by the director of The Hangovers (a man with such comedy chops has no place trying to branch out into drama, as demonstrated by his casting of an over-bronzed, giggling Hill). It’s just a shame because it’s based on a true story (published in a Rolling Stone article) and that tale is so fantastical you’d expect the screenwriter’s job had been half done for him.
It wants so badly to be Goodfellas; from voiceover to freeze-frames, it copies every Scorsese-ism in the book, but for all this it is doomed by an under-written, lacklustre, and at times banal, script. “Chapters” are punctuated by self-explanatory quotations, while the bursts of delight-inducing songs (from House of Pain to the Beastie Boys to, um, UB40) feel like a manipulative cover-up of how lame the actual movie is beneath.
By the end it’s clear that War Dogs is actually trying to be a Wolf of Wall Street but while its protagonists’ morals don’t sink to quite those levels of depravity and excess, War Dogs simply lacks the panache of Scorsese’s darkest hour, and to that end isn’t even fun to watch in a guilty pleasure sort of way.