War Dogs is basically Todd Phillips trying to be Scorsese and realizing he can’t, thus deciding to inject this project that somehow landed in his hands with his own brand of comedy. This works, but not for the most part and although the story is an extremely interesting one that could’ve been this generation’s Goodfellas, it simply falls short with the majority of things it could’ve been.
There are two main problems with War Dogs, those being characters and how information is presented. With characters as unlikeable as these, you need fantastic veteran actors to perform the job since you need to hit that sweet-spot that presents him as a nasty individual that you are still invested in enough to see where his tragic tale takes him. Honestly I couldn’t care less for any of the people involved in the story I am interested about. At one point you simply disregard the characters and just let them go down their own destructive path when the film finally comes to an end. They try to make you empathize with Miles Teller’s David by depicting his life as a failure before he joined Efraim (Hill) on his path towards monetary success but that doesn’t really do anything as all his actions contradict what Phillips tries to set up at the beginning. As for Efraim, from the very moment we meet him he’s described as a compulsive liar and no character development or information about his character given later on really redeems him. Then there’s Bradley Cooper’s “menacing” turn as a “villain” which is him being a conniving business-man that can occasionally get rattled. Besides the leads and Cooper’s Henry Girard, everyone else in this film isn’t really a character but is simply there to serve the plot. Ana de Armas instigates constant conflict for Miles Teller, the Armenians help us conclude the film alongside Kevin Pollack’s character.
As I mentioned previously, there are two main issues I had with this film, one being the characters and the other something to do with how information was presented. The problem here is Todd Phillips relies excessively on voiceover narration. When the film started I though he was only going to use it every now and then like in Goodfellas, but Phillips makes Teller describe almost every other scene via narration to a point it gets tedious to get through Teller describing every small detail we clearly picked up on by watching the film like regular human beings. Apart from the boredom that this brings along, the problem regarding excessive narration in a movie is that it feels as if the director doesn’t trust his audience’s intelligence enough.
With that said, there are some things that work about War Dogs. The comedy for example works really well here and doesn’t devalue the story in anyway. Its well placed and well timed, which gets some nice chuckles form the audience. Although I dislike the characters, I cant deny the acting is good in this film. As well as the fact that Todd Phillips departing from his usual style is something exciting that could take his career in a very different direction. With that discussed, the film does mostly balance the good with the bad and serves for a fairly enjoyable time at the movies.