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With: Miles Teller, Jonah Hill, Ana de Armas, Kevin Pollak, Shaun Toub, Steve Lantz, Gregg Weiner, Bradley Cooper
Written by: Stephen Chin, Todd Phillips, Jason Smilovic, based on an article by Guy Lawson
Directed by: Todd Phillips
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout, drug use and some sexual references
Running Time: 114
Date: 08/19/2016

War Dogs (2016)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Pistol Flip

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Gleefully irreverent, and with a so-crazy-it-must-be-true vibe, this exuberant comedy manages to be wildly entertaining while simultaneously finding alarming cracks in the fabric of American society.

In War Dogs, David Packouz (Miles Teller) is making a meager living as a massage therapist in Florida; when his girlfriend (Ana de Armas) announces she is pregnant, he doesn't know how he is going to make it. That's when old pal Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill) offers him a job. It's 2005 and Efraim sells weapons, ammo, and other military equipment to the U.S. military overseas.

Their adventures take them to the Middle East, where they must physically drive a truckload of Derringers through Jordan to Iraq. But their biggest challenge comes when they win a contract to supply hundreds of millions of AK-47 bullets. A new contact (Bradley Cooper) sets them up in Albania, but there's a problem. Can the old friends survive this dangerous game?

Director Todd Phillips started over two decades ago with a punk rock documentary (Hated: G.G. Allin and the Murder Junkies), and he's at his best whenever he's able to keep up that kind of energy in his work (i.e. Old School, The Hangover, etc.).

However — unlike the similar The Wolf of Wall StreetWar Dogs can't quite sustain that zing, and, like many Hollywood comedies, the humor flags as the filmmakers settle in to wrap up the story. Ana de Armas plays an unfortunately typical "girlfriend" role, and there are a few too many rock songs dropped on the soundtrack; perhaps tightening up those things could have quickened the pace. But Jonah Hill gives a fascinating, hilarious performance as the consummate salesman who is as diverting as he is calculating, and Miles Teller is a good match. As it stands, the movie is very funny, and a little bit smart.

Warner Home Video's Blu-ray release sounds great, with a picture that seems a little heavy on the blacks (which could be a filmmaking choice). Extras include the 8-minute behind-the-scenes featurette "General Phillips: Boots on the Ground," a 10-minute "Access Granted" featurette, and an animated sing-along, "Pentagon Pie." It also includes optional language tracks and subtitles. I think this one may play a little better at home, where the action doesn't overwhelm the characters and humor.

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