Based on a true story, "War Dogs" follows two friends in their early 20s (Jonah Hill and Miles Teller) living in Miami Beach during the Iraq War who exploit a little-known government initiative that allows small businesses to bid on U.S. Military contracts. Starting small, they begin raking in big money and are living the high life. But the pair gets in over their heads when they land a 300 million dollar deal to arm the Afghan Military—a deal that puts them in business with some very shady people, not the least of which turns out to be the U.S. Government.
‘War Dogs‘ looks good on paper, and the trailer sells the movie’s comedy and fun moments. It seemed like the perfect project for director Todd Phillips (‘The Hangover’ trilogy, ‘Road Trip’, ‘Old School’) as he reunites with Bradley Cooper and adds Jonah Hill and Miles Teller to this story, based on true events about two school friends who love to smoke up and run guns for the government – some of which might be illegal. This is a very different film for Phillips from what we’re used to, and unlike the trailer, the film isn’t all that funny. Sure, there are some moments of small laughter here and there, due to Jonah Hill’s character, but the rest is Phillips’ wink to a mix of gangster movies, including ‘Scarface’, ‘Goodfellas’, ‘Casino’, and even a bit of ‘Drive’.
Like I said, that sounds good on paper, but the end result was lackluster with the 115 minute movie seeming like a three hour endeavor. The pacing is off, and one scene just seems to be a repetition of the one before it. ‘War Dogs‘ tells the true story of Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz, who were high school friends, who eventually got a government contract to supply weapons to the U.S. Army in Afghanistan with no prior experience and being in their early 20s. This film of course has a bunch of fictionalized elements, which is good, but never has anything original or fresh.
Perhaps the best scene of the film is in the trailer, where Diveroli (Jonah Hill) and Packouz (Miles Teller) are riding in the truck in the Iraq desert, being chased by people with guns. That scene was funny, action-packed, and highly entertaining. Unfortunately the rest of the film is fairly drab, with some flashes of funny Jonah Hill moments. Phillips sure packed the film with winks and nods to the gangster movies I mentioned above with the same music, shots, and narration style that you see in Scorsese films. Plus, there are ‘Scarface’ posters everywhere in the film, along with references to the actual movie by name. It just got tiresome very fast.
It’s an interesting enough story to tell, but the characters aren’t that redeeming nor are they that likable throughout, particularly Jonah Hill’s character, who he plays the part perfectly. Teller is also great, but isn’t given much to work with. Bradley Cooper shows up for a few seconds here and there, but again, isn’t given much time to really explore his character, who turns out to be the most interesting part of the movie. ‘War Dogs‘ looks good from a technical and visual standpoint, but there really isn’t anything underneath that veil.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'War Dogs' comes with a 50GB Blu-ray Disc from Warner Bros. that is Region A Locked. There is an insert for the digital download code. The disc is housed in an eco-friendly, hard, plastic blue case. There is no cardboard sleeve. Trailers for other Warner Bros. titles play upon disc insertion.
'War Dogs' comes with a great 1080p HD transfer presented in 2.40:1 aspect ratio. There are tons of different locations and lighting setups in this film and Warner Bros. has done an amazing job in keeping the colors and detail well-balanced and looking crisp. Closeups reveal individual hairs on the actor's faces along with the funny film of spray-on tan on Jonah Hill's face. Makeup blemishes, scars, and beads of sweat show up nicely here too.
The grime, rust, and dents on all of the bullets, tanks, and other wooden crates look incredible in the many different lighting situations, wither it be in a cold dark gray warehouse, or the well-lit paradise of Miami. Wider shots look detailed and never goes soft as well, showing the palm trees of Miami very well and the sand dunes and shoddy housing in the desert, even though it was mostly CG. Colors are well saturated throughout with the scenes in Miami popping right off screen with rich primary colors and neon lighting.
When in the desert, there is an orange and yellow tint to everything, and while on the other side of the world, there is a cool looking silver and gray tone. Black levels are deep and inky throughout and the skin tones are always natural. There were no major instances of any aliasing, banding, or video noise, leaving this video presentation with great marks.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD 5.1 mix and sounds very good. I wouldn't say this is an action-packed audio track that will give your speaker system a full workout, but it has some good moments. Most of the film is dialogue driven and front heavy and well prioritized. Ambient noises of people talking in the background, people working on wooden crates, and other nature or city noises are clear, crisp and full.
Sound effects are full and robust when they happen, particularly a scene in the desert where there is a truck chase, gun fire, and a helicopter flying overhead. That's about as crazy as it gets here, with the exception of a few gun rounds going off. The excellent soundtrack is always full and shines at every moment and fully engulfs the soundscape. The low end packs some good bass that never crosses into rocky territory. Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy follow, and free of any pops, cracks, hiss, and shrills, leaving this audio presentation with good marks.
General Phillips: Boots on the Ground (HD, 9 Mins.) - Here we have a short EPK piece with cast and crew interviews, on set footage, and B-Roll. It covers how the movie was made and where the story came from.
'War Dogs': Access Granted (HD, 10 Mins.) - This extra is more or less the same extra as the one above, but it focuses on one of the actual real guys the movie is based on, where he discusses the real story and working on the film.
Pentagon Pie (HD, 3 Mins.) - Is an animated video depicting two rats, who are supposed to be the two characters in the film who instruct you how to make money from the government by running guns.
'War Dogs' isn't a perfect film, but it has some very fun moments. There are some pacing problems and some irredeemable characters, but that being said, the movie is entertaining. The performances by Jonah Hill, Miles Teller, and Bradley Cooper are all excellent, and filmmaker Todd Phillips has shown he has grown as a director and has made his homage to 'Scarface' with 'War Dogs'. The video and audio presentations are both very good, but the small amount of extras don't add anything of real value here. Worth a look.