There are a lot of conspiracy theories about 911 and the war on terror it eventually spawned. Virtually all the theories point to the fact it was all a smoke and mirrors ruse to promote what has been described as the biggest business on the planet; war.
War Dogs, in its own way, feeds on the conspiracy theories by drawing inspiration from the real life experience of its protagonists (or should that be antagonists?). A down-on-his–luck young man tries to eke out a living by being an itinerant masseuse (a licensed one at that, we mustn’t forget) catering sometimes to clients who hint at receiving the full package.
Another business brain wave to sell velvety Egyptian cotton bed sheets to a nursing home falls flat on its face over something about wrapping a lizard in velvet or something of the sort.
As fate would have it; a chance meeting with an old High School buddy at a funeral (fate has a wicked sense of humour, doesn’t it?) gives life a breakthrough. His buddy turns out to be a small time gun runner for the US government who feeds on scrap contracts to supply arms which big time gun runners typically ignore.
He partners up with his buddy who runs a company which goes by a 3-letter acronym that apparently means nothing aside from being catchy. They scavenge US government websites for the little league arms contracts typically reserved for contractors like them (who are derisively referred to as war dogs ) until they hit pay dirt by snagging a top money contract to supply Beretta pistols to the US army in Iraq.
The snag is; the pistols are made in Italy and the Italian government has placed an embargo on supplying Italian arms to Iraq. So, our gun running duo devises a plan to ship (or more appropriately; drive) the supply to Iraq through Jordan. Through a hair-raising ride (which provides one of the movie’s stand out moments) they deliver on their contract and thus begins a life of rolling in the big bucks that eventually and predictably plunges southward.
The best part of War Dogs was Jonah Hill playing Efraim Diveroli. Hill was literally like a force of nature both in his size and performance of the character. He embodied a seemingly boundless energy in his portrayal that left you in stitches every time he appeared on screen.
Actors nail their performances sometimes by introducing nuances that accentuate the brilliance of their performances. Sometimes, those nuances work and sometimes they don’t.
Matthew McConaughey has his “well, alright, alright, alright!” shtick. Eddie Murphy has that Eddie Murphy laugh. Christopher Walken has that Christopher Walken speech mannerism that no doubt inspired Kevin Corrigan’s portrayal of Eddie Finnerty in the sit-com “Grounded for life”, in Copland, Robert De Niro’s curse work inspired a review thus “De Niro proved again that no one can eat a sandwich and curse at the same time better than he can”.
In War dogs, Jonah Hill had this laugh that sounded like a cross between a hyena laugh and the way you laugh when you are a bit nervous. That laugh was a memorable part of his performance and it both made you laugh and endeared his performance to you.
In terms of style, War Dogs did not come across as original. Its character voice over narrative style reminds you of Ray Liotta’s in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas. The fast paced debauchery feel of the movie is equally reminiscent of Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street.
War Dogs is a comedy movie that took on a serious subject, but toned it down until the seriousness of its subject is almost lost on you. If the intention was to make you ponder on the tragedy of arms dealers and how they fuel wars, it almost fails as you end up liking rather than detesting the gun running duo protagonists (again; or antagonists?). However, if the intention was to make you laugh and enjoy a feel good moment at the cinema notwithstanding the movie’s serious theme, it delivered.