Despite its interesting premise and a great performance by Jonah Hill, the film can never quite muster up the goods to be anything more than a passable film. Aside from Hill’s character, the rest of the cast feel paper thin and never really develop beyond the initial impressions we base them on. Its tonally confused too; jumping from dark comedy to drama to thriller and back again means its lack of focus spills over to most aspects of this flick.
The story follows two young adult friends David Packouz (Miles Teller) and Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill) who manage to exploit a government initiative that allows small businesses to bid on military arms in exchange, selling them on at a profit to the army. It doesn’t take long before the two end up hitting the high life and eventually end up in over their heads in a lucrative 300 million dollar contract to army the Afghan army.
War Dogs feels content in dabbing between genres with each scene and it never quite settles into a rhythm of what it wants to be. There’s hints of a dark comedy at work here, its dramatic at times and a thriller at others. One of the stand out moments comes reasonably early on with a tense car chase through the aptly named “circle of death” that makes it feel like an action but this is one of the only action set-pieces in the film. Tonally, War Dogs doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. This indecisiveness means the film revels its own mediocrity and instead of nailing one genre, it tends to misfire on many.
Efraim is the stand out here though and Jonah Hill’s performance as the boisterous, crazy-eyed arms seller (complete with a hilariously iconic laugh) is a diamond among the rough. Miles Teller plays his straight “good guy” sidekick well but can’t quite reach the same lofty heights that Hill’s character achieves. You’re never quite sure of him and this is reinforced by his mannerisms and performance throughout.
Its a shame then that War Dogs probably won’t be remembered in the coming months and even years. Its an average film that does some things well (Jonah Hill’s performance, good script) and others not so well (its tone, pace and one-note characters) that make it one of the most mediocre films of the year. Its worth watching for Jonah Hill’s performance alone which is very good but beyond that, there isn’t much else to take from this film that you can’t get a better experience from elsewhere.