While it may have had a rough, exposition laden start, War Dogs eventually comes together as a thrilling and dramatic heist-like movie. The film tells the true story of two men in their early 20s who founded a weapons contractor that competed at the highest level. The story played out much like it did in the late 2000s but focused more on the strange partnership of the films main characters.
One main issue I took with this film is the sheer tonnage of exposition laid out in the film’s first act. Overall the movie was broken up into several sections denoted by events in the main character’s story. I was fine with this and thought it actually served to move the story forward quite well as the movie covered several years in these two men’s lives. Unfortunately, each new section of the movie needed at least five minutes of narration up front to explain what happened during the fast forward and what was about to happen in the current section. I guess all of this would be fine if it wasn’t for my next big issue with the movie.
I’m sure he is a great guy in real life and he probably excels at acting in a certain genre but I cannot help but find Miles Teller extraordinarily boring. It serves him well at the beginning as he plays the broke 20 something trying to support a family. But as the action starts to ramp up, his demeanor barely changes to match the intensity of the coming situations. The film goes a long way to show him as the righteous side of the pairing always looking out for what’s best in the world and working to make a better life for his family. But at a certain point in every story, you don’t care about this type of character and are left with just the actor which, in this case, fell flat.
In perfect opposition to this, Jonah Hill proves, as he has done before, that he can present some amazing dramatic performances. Effraim is the quintessential salesman able to change his demeanor, life story, and speech to fit any client or any need. Hill is able to meet, and exceed, each of these character changes and, as the movie progresses, take on the perfect villain. You saw as his trust in David broke down throughout the second act, he gets more and more vicious making you actually dislike him as a person. Initially I thought this movie was being marketed as a gritty comedy, which is how Hollywood tries to sell a Jonah Hill movie, but I think this is another notch in his belt as not only a great character actor but a great dramatic actor as well.
There are more things to this movie that go back and forth from good to bad but I would still encourage everyone to give it a chance. War Dogs has its flaws but it still comes through as a very watchable and entertaining film. If you can push past the heavy exposition and more than a few forced conflicts, the movie begins to get very tense and comes together to create something special by the end.