Filmmaker Todd Phillips graduates from ‘The Hangover’ trilogy with this part comic, part downer real-life story about an unlikely pair of twentysomething guys from Florida who blagged their way to multi-million-dollar arms contracts during the Iraq War. Jonah Hill is by far the movie’s biggest asset as Efraim Diveroli, an awkward and ballsy entrepreneur with a weird laugh and a car boot full of machine guns. He sucks his impressionable childhood friend David Packouz (Miles Teller, less endearing) into his scheme to bid for US government weapons contracts.
The film is at its best in the early stages as a crazy-but-true caper, not least when Efraim and David are forced to drive a truckload of guns from Jordan to Baghdad. It’s less winning in the more serious moments – especially attempts to sketch the knock-on effects on David’s home life.
The shadow of Scorsese, particularly ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, hangs heavily over ‘War Dogs’: the moral ambiguity, the slo-mo musical sequences, Teller’s reminiscing voiceover. But there’s no getting round the fact that this is a less nuanced, less artful film. ‘War Dogs’ simply doesn’t dig deeply enough into the duo’s personalities to be more than a fitfully entertaining escapist spin on a ripped-from-the-headlines yarn. Thank goodness for Jonah Hill, then: his performance as a vulnerable egomaniac with terrible dress sense goes a long way