I fucking hate War Dogs. The same way I fucking hate every douche bag in board shorts, flip-flops, tank tops and reflective sunglasses. The douche bag who drinks Bud Light Lime and has a Drake song for his ring tone. The douche bag who sees Scarface not as a cautionary tale but as a lifestyle guide.
This movie is that guy. Except, it’s not the first guy to be a bro’s bro. It’s the millionth guy, the guy who does it because he wants to look just like the first 999,999 fucking assholes. He wants all those other guys to know he’s chillax just like them. That he takes nude pictures of chicks he’s screwed while they’re sleeping. That he has an Audi. That he doesn’t know how to repair an Audi. That he loves brunch. That he goes to dayclubs. That he “negs” women.
Not only is this movie that guy, it’s about that guy, or guys. Irredeemable fuckwads, self-absorbed, assholes who offer nothing to society but their unearned swagger. Dickfaces with no interest deeper than getting into the most popular nightclubs, then taking selfies to show other bros they did. War Dogs is the wet fart fantasy of bros, a movie for a dude whose idealized version of himself is one where classic rock plays over slo-mo shots of him getting out of sports cars, shooting guns and sniffing coke.
War Dogs is a very-loosely-based-on-reality tale about two dudes (played by Jonah Hill and Miles Teller) making bank while surrounded by guns and gangsters, and never caring to ask what it all means or what the impact their actions has. It takes place during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars when small-business dirtbags could easily win government arms contracts, which these guys do. And, boy, does that get them into some wacky hijinx.
War Dogs doesn’t say anything about war. That would be going below the surface. It barely even says anything about these characters. Apparently writer-director Todd Phillips (he made one good Hangover and two ball-sweat sequels of increasingly vapid bro-hero horseshit) didn’t think to give this movie a point of view. That’s because all it really wants is to be the movie douchebags in board shorts quote to each other while they wait for their mojitos. War Dogs wants that so bad, in fact, that it pastes the lines it wants dicks to repeat across the screen in big text every few minutes.
A character in War Dogs says, “That’s why I like the arms business. No women.” This movie is about the arms business. War Dogs is so not about women that the only one in it who isn’t a prostitute is a gorgeous girlfriend (Ana de Armas) who always wears tight tank tops and whose pregnancy almost ruins all the good times for her gun-running, stoner, party-boy boyfriend (Teller). Almost. Thank god he’s so spineless that he can keep partying, taking macho risks and traveling far away from her. I think the movie wants us to believe he loves her, but it ain’t love. It’s the sort of one-way take that an asshole who says often, half-jokingly, “Get in the kitchen and make me a sandwich” calls love. The fantasy of love being a woman with big tits being there only when you need big tits. I’m guessing that asshole is Todd Phillips.
War Dogs is what a lazy, self-absorbed jerk would make if he were pretending to be Martin Scorcese. Or if he thought The Big Short looked easy. Except, Scorcese has a point of view and The Big Short was deceptively smart (which is far and away the best way to be smart). Scorcese also innovated all the damn time. Phillips is just an unimaginative
ape. He directs like an overripe nitwit who probably cherishes Max Tucker books most of all. The movie deploys overused classic rock for its slo-mo. There is a trite time-bending opening scene showing a character in peril before rewinding to show the events that led up to that moment. And there’s more voiceover here than in a third-grade filmstrip about Holland.
Here’s an example of how lazy this movie is. At its start, Teller is a broke massage therapist driving a beater Ford. He gets rich, buys a penthouse and a Porsche. Near the end he is once again poor. Phillips lets us know this by putting him back into the exact same Ford. As though the character stored it in a garage all that time, just in case he went back to being poor. Phillips doesn’t have the narrative skill or will to convey that his character is back to poverty any other way.
Teller and Hill play two shallow, directionless assholes who get rich in Miami bidding on federal arms contracts. They’re scumbags. They’re only motivation is to get rich without a thought to the consequences in their own lives or that of strangers. Although, War Dogs wants us to think Hill is a bigger scumbag because he’s a sociopath. He isn’t. Scum is a measure of action, and both men do shitty stuff. Teller’s character is no better just because he pauses for a second before being an asshole. But this is Phillips’ movie, and he clearly has no grasp of ethics, so in his mind doing shitty stuff is mitigated by feeling sort of guilty. Even when you keep doing shitty stuff.
Eventually, these two douchebags land a deal worth hundreds of millions of dollars that they intend to fulfill through unethical and illegal means. I’m not sure what the audience is supposed to root for: that they pull it off? That they successfully fuck the US government and endanger US soldiers? Maybe. I think Phillips expects an audience to give more shits about two douchebags made in his own image than in the soldiers and civilians. The justification being that, well, “the government is so fucked up they allow this.” This is lazy moral fuckery of the lowest grade: that you can do bad things because others do. This is that board-shorted douchebag cutting the line in front of you at the grocery store because he thinks you’ll let him, or at least won’t say anything. Only on a massive scale.
War Dogs has no moral point of view. That isn’t a conscious choice, it’s the product of amoral assholes. I’m not saying we need yet another movie to preach about how fucked up the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were. What I’m saying is if you’re going to make a movie that takes place in that environment, be prepared to say something. A shitload of people died. Countries were torn apart. The US spent trillions of dollars. Don’t use all that tragedy as a backdrop for future frat house wall art about guns, drugs and money. At least let us know the main characters lived in a bigger world, one where their vile actions have more negative consequences than losing a nice apartment.
War Dogs is horseshit, what happens when wannabe bros make movies for wannabe bros. No depth, no charm, no reason to live, except to keep the economy churning. One Finger.