From the Frat House to the frontline, via Vegas and some misjudged sequels, Todd Phillips has popped a handful of painkillers and the hangover’s clearing. With War Dogs, his first foray into true – well, sorta – drama, we see a filmmaker grow up in electric fashion.
War Dogs tells a bizarrely true story, with which Phillips turns the colour and sound up to eleven, wringing every laugh and subsequent ebb from his cautionary tale to deliver a bombastic, often hilarious, piece of work. Much like Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, we’re presented with morally-ambiguous leads and a hyper, heavily-stylized cut with its visuals complementing a story infinitely stranger than fiction. And weed. A whole lot of weed – come on, Todd Phillips hasn’t completely sold out.
Miles Teller was elevated to one of Hollywood’s premier Hot Young Things with his impressive turn in Whiplash but since then, his stock has seemingly plateaued, not least due to association with that not-so-Fantastic superhero megaflop. Here, however, his grounded take on Packouz, the straight man in this toxic twosome, perfectly keeps some semblance of order in the pair’s world of chaos, the perfect tonic for Diveroli’s erraticism.
In a role seemingly readymade for him, Jonah Hill absolutely shines, injecting charisma into a deplorable, perma-tanned scoundrel with aplomb, mixing danger with unpredictability like a bowling ball in a hurricane. When it comes to hitting the comedic-dramatic apex, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more entertaining and captivating performer on the planet right now.
Leaving behind a franchise that defined him and then sullied his reputation, War Dogs shows that Phillips is a director capable of learning new tricks. Older and somewhat wiser, though thankfully not completely done with splitting our sides, he’s at his best with two heavyweight performances and sumptuous source material.
CAST: Jonah Hill, Miles Teller, Ana de Armas, Kevin Pollak, J.B. Blanc, Bradley Cooper
DIRECTOR: Todd Phillips
WRITER: Stephen Chin and Todd Phillips, Jason Smilovic (screenplay), Guy Lawson (article ‘Arms and the Dudes’)
SYNOPSIS: Based on the true story of two young men, David Packouz (Teller) and Efraim Diveroli (Hill), who won a $300 million contract from the Pentagon to arm America’s allies in Afghanistan.
We greatly appreciate that a preview screening of War Dogs was provided by Warner Bros.