“War Dogs:” We’re not mad, just disappointed

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Picture

Leo Castell, Staff

It feels weird for me to not really like “War Dogs.” Not because I feel like I should, but because I feel like that’s the point. “War Dogs” is a movie about a tool and an asshole doing things you’d expect a tool and an asshole to do. If that’s the point, can I really fault characters for being unenjoyable if they are supposed to be unlikable?

I’m going to say yes because there’s a difference between a likable character and a good character, and “War Dogs” doesn’t have either. The two leads are so rigidly consistent that you will always be able to predict what they’re going to do next, and it diffuses any semblance of tension the movie tries to drum up. I’ll give it this though: it tries. It really tries.

“Wars Dogs” has a bit of an identity crisis. It can’t decide if it wants to be a dude-bro comedy that satirizes war or a snarky drama about corruption and greed. It doesn’t do either particularly well nor does it combine them gracefully.

The story follows David Packouz (Miles Teller) and Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill), two college-age boys that get into the arms dealing business. If those names sound familiar, it’s because both characters are real people, and the movie is loosely based on their real-life foray into the shady business.

David Packouz is the protagonist. He’s the tool of the two: a polite, timid guy who is constantly being pushed around in his never ending pursuit of an easy life, even if that means doing a lot of stupid and selfish things that he knows are stupid and selfish. David tries to claim redemption in the final act, but it’s extremely rushed and almost immediately undone at the movie’s end. Miles Teller does give a solid performance, if not a particularly memorable one.

That makes Efraim Diveroli the deuteragonist. He’s definitely the standout character of the movie. This guy is as despicable as they come; he’s almost cartoonish in how he acts. He’s a shallow, racist, womanizing con-man who would sell out his own mother if it meant lining his pocket with a few extra bucks. He isn’t cowardly, since he actually makes some pretty bold moves, but not in any kind of way that make you respect him. Jonah Hill plays him exceptionally well and should be commended for his performance. Another notch on Hill’s serious performance belt, which are starting to rack up.

I didn’t enjoy “War Dogs,” but I also didn’t hate it, and I would be lying if I said it was boring. I never felt like I was waiting for the movie to finish, and even if I knew what would happen next, I still wanted to see it. It tries; it really tries to be a better movie than it is, even if it doesn’t know how, and you have to respect the effort. There is a decent film somewhere in the gut of this movie that got lost in translation as they were coming up with their tenth weed joke. As it stands, “War Dogs” will just have to settle for being in the top tier of mediocrity.