Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Movie with Abe: War Dogs

War Dogs
Directed by Todd Phillips
Released August 19, 2016

Capitalism is capable of luring many people into criminal enterprises, and unsurprisingly such stories make for enticing film topics. Just because something isn’t illegal doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do, and initially well-meaning people become corrupted by the allure of financial gain and the ease of getting away with it. “War Dogs” gets its title from its protagonists’ role as arms dealers, buying weaponry and supplying it to the United States government, making a hefty profit in return. Their business starts out from a potentially immoral but not necessarily unlawful point, and things spiral out of control from there.

David Packouz (Miles Teller) serves as the film’s narrator, explaining how he came to be involved in the gun-running business thanks to a reunion with an old school friend named Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill) at a funeral. David is more than happy to stop working as a massage therapist, and an innocent lie to his girlfriend about selling bedsheets to the government allows him the cover he needs to embark on a far more dangerous endeavor, which involves multiple trips overseas and dealing with a number of dangerous characters, with David constantly losing sight of the line that divides right and wrong.

This film follows a recognizable format, starting out as things are going strong and then beginning to fall apart and then rewinding back to the beginning to tell the whole story. Anyone who watched “The Wolf of Wall Street” a few years ago won’t be surprised by much in this film, which earns some points for individuality with its focus on the gun industry. It’s easy to see how David and Efraim got ahead of themselves and in way too deep, but there’s also an important difference between David, who pauses at each juncture to question what he is doing, and Efraim, who seems perfectly content not to consider any ethical consequences to his actions.

Teller is a superb actor who has had great roles in the past few years in “Whiplash,” “The Spectacular Now,” and other films. He’s a fine narrator, but he’s really the straight man here in an adequate if unspectacular turn. Hill earned a Golden Globe nomination for his performance as Efraim, a character he was born to play and who he brings to life as a cocky, comic protagonist whose energy for selling is incredible. Together, the two actors anchor a moderately serious comedy from “The Hangover” director Todd Phillips that serves its purpose and doesn’t deliver much beyond what’s expected.


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