HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: War Dogs
HTS Overall Score:77
Entrepreneurship is one of the defining characteristics of America. The carrot in front of the horse drives innovations, creates wealth, but it also comes with a darker side. The desire to steal, cheat and lie to everyone and anyone in order to make a buck. Kind of a dual edged sword if you think about it. It’s really the basis for most gangster movies, most crime thrillers, and any movie about ambition if you think about it. The desire to make something of yourself in a dog eat dog world is really the foundation for most conflicts and success stories out there. “War Dogs” is based off of the true story of two childhood friends who did the unthinkable. They as 20 something year old nobodies were able to score government contracts to supply arms to the U.S. Military, and stumbled out of their comfort zone and into one of the biggest and most controversial arms dealing in all of U.S. history (at least that we’re AWARE of).
Director Todd Phillips is way outside of his comfort zone here. This is the man who gave us “The Hangover” (all three of them), “Due Date”, “Old School” and “Starsky & Hutch” and dives straight into a modern day gangster movie with gleeful gusto. From the trailers and the cast you would assume it’s a straight up comedic movie. We’ve got Bradley Cooper, Jonah Hill and Miles teller and the trailer made it seem like it was going to be a laugh a minute. Something that actually isn’t the case. Sure there’s a few chuckles here and there, mostly in making winking and nodding gestures to old gangster movies like “Scarface” and “The Godfather”, but 95% of the film is a serious, straight up tale of deception, greed and an INCREDULOUS audience wondering how these couple of nobodies pulled this off!
We start off with Bradley Cooper pointing a gun at Miles Teller’s face before rewinding us JUST a tad. David Packouz (Teller) is in a dead end job. He’s a college drop out who’s trying to make a living as a massage therapist for rich uppity people in Miami. However, things change a bit when his childhood friend Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill) comes back to town and ropes David into the wide world of government contracts. Efraim has been spending his time buying up guns from police auctions and reselling on the open market, but now he wants to go bigger and starts buying up small government contracts for munitions and arms during the fight in Afghanistan. Easy enough. There’s no real chance at them becoming big players, but even table scraps in the gun war is still millions for us peons. Soon David and Efraim prove themselves to be contenders in the game and after accidentally lowballing the U.S. government on a defense contract actually score a $300 million contract that will put them on the map as one of THE biggest players in the industry. That is, if they can keep it together.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=85282[/img]The thing is, with big deals like this come big responsibilities (I know, I sound like a “Spiderman” cliché right there). Hundreds of permits, thousands of man hours and millions upon millions of dollars. A logistical nightmare until they hook up with international arms dealer Henry Girard, who manages to get them hooked up with DIRT cheap ammo. All seems good until the boys realize that they’re WAY in over their head. The ammo they got for the war is actually Chinese ammo, which is banned for sale due to the embargo on China, as well as a myriad of palms to grease and ethics to displace in order to get this deal done and complete. Soon David and Efraim are at each other’s throats as Efraim tries to cheat and weasel his way into millions, all the while putting David in harm’s way. Something just HAS to give, but it may not be what anyone expected.
I really thought that “War Dogs” looked a lot like Nicholas Cage’s “Lord of War”, except with modern actors. Guns, arms dealing, millions and government oversight all in one movie. What really made the movie fascinating is that it is supposedly based off of a TRUE story 8 years ago. I unfortunately have never read the actual biography about the two fellows, but from what I gather the details are fairly fabricated. These guys really DID get the Afghan deal, and really DID botch the whole thing, it’s just that Hollywood has gone ahead and gussied it into a full blown adventure movie at times. Still, it’s not a bad movie. In fact the first hour and 20 minutes are a complete blast. Jonah Hill is great as the sleazy Efraim, hamming it up with that ridiculous laugh and his overly aggressive enthusiasm for making money. Miles Teller is someone I think is WAY overhyped, but he does a solid job at portraying a fairly innocent guy who is in over his head.
There’s some odd pacing to the movie as it tries to fluctuate between comedic moments and the more serious issues of the international arms trade. Not to mention that the last 45 minutes drags on far too long. The film really feels like 2 and half hours instead of a few minutes shy of 2 hours. A factor that makes it a bit harder to rewatch knowing that it already felt long the first time. However, the movie is still entertaining and has quite a bit of ludicrous fun to it (I mean, I’m sitting her with my jaw hanging down wondering just HOW these imbeciles actually got a $300 million contract in the first place. Not to mention the fact that they got caught, sentenced, and then were STILL eligible to start bidding on government contracts a few years later).
Rated R for language throughout, drug use and some sexual references
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=85290[/img]Using the Arri Alexa XT cameras and then transferred to a 4K Digital Intermediary, “War Dogs” looks amazing on Blu-ray. Ironically enough, not only do we have one of the actors and the director from “The Hangover”, but we also have Lawrench Sher acting as the cinematographer. The same man who acted as cinematographer for “The Hangover” as well. As such, we have a fairly similar look to “War Dogs” as with the afore mentioned comedy. The fine detail is absolutely amazing and the overblown contrasts give the movie a slightly euphoric look to it. Blacks are deep and inky and the artifacting is kept to a bare minimum (except for a few moments where a ray of sunlight would show banding or the digital noise that crops up inside the boys Miami head office). It’s a lovely looking piece of digital cinematography and really shines in 1080p.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=85298[/img]Surprisingly, “War Dogs” doesn’t come with an Atmos or DTS:X track for either of the Blu-ray OR the 4K UltraHD, instead giving us a 5.1 DTS-HD MA track. Not saying that this is a bad thing, but just surprised with the recent rash of putting Atmos (or DTS:X) encodes on 4K discs. The 5.1 mix for the film is a good and energetic mix, but it is not one that will send you into the middle of a war zone. Dialog is the focus of the movie with short stints where the surrounds and sub get a workout (such as when David and Efraim head over to Baghdad to deliver a batch of Berettas, or the sound of an AK-47 blasting away over the sounds of music. In fact the music is one of the best portions of the film. Cliff Martinez (the musical director) Infuses humor into each and every part of the movie with a diverse and eclectic mixture of musical numbers that range from Dean Martin to The Who, the score flows in and out as a mocking agent. Lightening the mood and showing a bizarre contrast with the seriousness of the actual situation. LFE is restrained and clean for most of the time, but can kick it up a notch or two with the sound of a helicopter roaring overhead or the sound of bullets impacting into something.
• General Phillips: Boots on the Ground
• War Dogs: Access Granted
• Pentagon Pie
“War Dogs” is a rather unique and quirky cautionary tale of greed and deception. Most of the movie I was either chuckling to myself or shaking my head just wondering HOW these guys were able to get away with as much as they really got away with. Sure there were some fictionalized elements which I don’t mind, but the real events are some of the most incredulous. The one big complaint that I have is just a personal one. Bradley Cooper was labeled as big billing and in the trailers quite a bit, so I was saddened to see one my favorite actors given only 10 minutes of screen time for the whole film. Audio and video are great, but the extras are a tad slim. Worth it as a watch.
Starring: Miles Teller, Jonah Hill, Steve Lantz
Directed by: Todd Phillips
Written by: Stephen Chin, Todd Phillips
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese DD 5.1
Studio: Warner Brothers
Runtime: 114 Minutes
Own War Dogs on Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack, Blu-ray and DVD on November 22 or Own It Early on Digital HD on November 11!
Buy War Dogs On 4K Blu-ray at Amazon
Buy War Dogs On Blu-ray at Amazon
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