Jonah Hill may well be one of the most underrated actors out there right now. His performance in ‘War Dogs’ although initially worried, stood out head and shoulders above everyone, with plenty of swagger and bad ass attitude. Looking extra heavy in the role, Hill, who plays Efraim Diveroli, reunites with his high school best friend to offload dodgy arms to the U.S. military. It was obvious that the director told Hill to try and channel his Wolf of Wall Street character and he does his best to do it. His laugh makes you feel uncomfortable but, his energy and manic character makes it effective. His chemistry though with his costar Miles Teller was excellent but you could always sense Teller was going to be the good guy from the off as Efraim’s business partner, David Packouz. While it made the movie better, far too often in the film did you know where the movie was about to take.
Directed by Todd Phillips (The Hangover, Old School) dipping himself into something completely different here rather than lads being lads, fails to capitalise on a true story. Lasting one hour and 54 minutes, it could and should have been 90 minutes with certain scenes that didn’t belong in the final production. It is a great story but, the director let himself down here by putting certain things in. One that sticks out, is the voice over narration, needless for a true story. Diveroli and Packouz go and do some foolish stuff and visit one of the most dangerous places in the world, it didn’t need a narrator, it needed great action and visuals.
Phillips does not seem to know where the big moments are in the movie. There were plenty of freeze-frames and slow motion, sometimes it worked but for most of the time it didn’t really add anything.
One of the positives from the film was the music. Cliff Martinez was the music supervisor (Drive, The Lincoln Lawyer) Drive was remembered for the music and I really enjoyed the music selected in The Lincoln Lawyer. Martinez hits all the right notes here and kicks the movie off with the upbeat and manic song – ‘Waters of Nazareth’ by Justice that gets you ready for the crazy story that is about to unfold. War Dogs based in 2003 goes with music from that year in many of the scenes – ‘What Up Gangsta’ by 50 Cent springs to mind, ‘Get Rich or Die Trying” at that time when I was a teenager was a big part of me and hearing the song brought back some great memories but it was a perfect song choice for the scene. When Diveroli and Packouz get a deal done, ‘Jump Around’ by House of Pain started to blast out of the screen. Finally another song that caught my attention or made myself singing it, was the classic – ‘Red Red Wine’ by UB40.
Having not seen his high school friend for many years, Packouz and Diveroli reconnect at a funeral. Packouz is selling bed sheets at the time which had not been a great source of income and to compound things, his girlfriend found out that she is pregnant with his child. He needs to make some money to support his family now and Efraim, the flashy and flamboyant friend earns his crust from undercutting low-end military contracts. How this was allowed to happen during the war, some of us will never know! Efraim quickly gets him on board to be his business partner as claims, ‘he is one of the few people he trusts.’
A difficult situation for Packouz because he never agreed with the war and his girlfriend is even more against it. His family were are his thoughts but the money is the reason why he turned a blind eye to selling arms to them. Unknown to his girlfriend at what was going on with ‘business’, she thought that he was selling the bed sheets which were boxed and stocked up in their apartment to the U.S. military.
The partners go to extreme measures and fly to Jordan to get the guns back first and then to get them to Iraq. A crazy and tense scene, they wake up at a gas station, thinking that they have lost their driver, hear gun shots and cars fast approaching – the Taliban. They come within inches of a bloody death and losing the ammunition but alas, they arrive to the military base with all the arms. The military were impressed as they crossed the so – called ‘triangle of death’ to deliver it. The deal was done and the boys were out of there in flash back to the U.S.
Still the boss and still schooling Packouz in the business they go for a big time contract, with the help of Bradley Cooper’s shady arms dealer and land a mammoth 300 million dollar contract from the U.S. military to arm their allies in Afghanistan …
It was at this stage that you knew that somehow the deal would go wrong. They get shafted on the ammunition when Packouz is out in Albania and Efraim starts getting anxious and losing his head. Workers in Albania haven’t been paid and Packouz comes back to Miami to confront his partner.
Some might say that it was rarely dull but I found at times there were a few dull moments and irrevleant scenes. However, the best part about it was Hill, who clearly invested a lot in the character and really made it his own. A true story, yes. An original movie is something that it is certaintly not.