War Dogs is narrated by David Packouz (Miles Teller), the film opening with him as the international arms dealer in question, and having a gun pointed at his head, showing the mess he’s got into, before it flashes back to how he and Efraim (Jonah Hill) got started in the business. When it costs $17,500 to outfit the average US soldier, and with hundreds of thousands going into battle each year, someone’s making a hell of a lot of money!
The term ‘War Dogs’ was culled as the people who make a ton of money from wars, by being morally bankrupt. While the big companies sell big-ticket items to the US Military, the small fry – like Efraim and David – will sell them guns and bullets, and other small items, all in bulk so they make a fortune. So, it sounds very much like Nicolas Cage’s Lord of War.
Making a ton of cash certainly inspires David, stuck in a series of dead-end jobs and reconnecting with best friend from school Efraim, who wants him to join in the business. What follows is a highly entertaining movie with both the main leads on top form, plus a lot of humour when required. For example, when gunrunning to Baghdad, they ask the driver if it’s safe to drive there. He replies in broken English, “Yes, it’s very safe… 50-50(!)”
And as David is shown earlier, trying to make a few bucks by selling expensive bed sheets round old folks home, in the background is a man singing Don’t Fear The Repear to the residents in the day room, and what I didn’t realise until afterwards is that the man is musician and real-life gunrunner – at the time – David Packouz, who also interjects during the extras below.
With great support from Ana de Armas as David’s pregnant girlfriend Iz, who’s rather kept in the dark about it all, plus Kevin Pollak as dry-cleaning-store owner and part-time investor Ralph Slutzky, and Bradley Cooper as the shady Henry Girard, I had read differing reviews about this beforehand, but at two hours, like the aforementioned Lord of War, it’s solid entertainment and never outstays its welcome.
The film is presented in the original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio and in 1080p high definition. The image is stunning and there are zero defects in the various locations whether it’s sunny Baghdad, or gloomy Albania.
The sound is in DTS HD 5.1 and comes in handy for the gunshots and other weaponry being traded, plus the score and soundtrack. There’s nothing hugely outstanding in the way of split-surround sound, but there’s nothing troubling, either.
The front of the box states “Loaded with extras”… yet, there’s just three brief pieces. Rather misleading:
- General Phillips: Boots on the Ground (8:38): Director Todd Phillips leads the chat from cast & crew talking about the film, mixed in with clips in a bog-standard ‘making of’.
- Access Granted (10:08): Another ‘making of’ which repeats a bit of what we’ve already heard, but also features the aforementioned real David Packouz, and Rolling Stone journalist Guy Lawson.
- Pentagon Pie (2:49): A weird political cartoon that relates to the basis of the movie.
- Audio description: Does exactly what it says on the tin.
The static menu echoes the Scarface poster, the movie of which Efraim is fixated (but which wasn’t used for the UK release – although you can see it on the 4K Blu-ray packshot linked below and atop this review), but the music in the background is nothing to do with the film, so why Warner couldn’t splash out for any of that, I don’t understand. Subtitles are in a variety of languages as you can read below, and the film has just 12 chapters – normally not enough, but then the film is split into around as many segments, so it kinda works out this time.
Running time: 114 minutes
Studio: Warner Home Video
Released: December 26th 2016
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1
Languages: English, French, German, Italian, Castillian Spanish
Subtitles: English SDH, French, German, Italian, Castillian Spanish, Dutch, Danish, Swiss, Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (ARRIRAW (3.4K))
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Todd Phillips
Producers: Bradley Cooper, Mark Gordon and Todd Phillips
Screenplay: Stephen Chin, Todd Phillips and Jason Smilovic (Based on the Rolling Stone article “Arms and the Dudes” by Guy Lawson)
Music: Cliff Martinez
Efraim Diveroli: Jonah Hill
David Packouz: Miles Teller
Iz: Ana de Armas
Henry Girard: Bradley Cooper
Ralph Slutzky: Kevin Pollak
Captain Phillip Santos: Patrick St Esprit
Marlboro: Shaun Toub
Bashkim: JB Blanc
Enver: Gabriel Spahiu
Army Bureaucrat: Barry Livingston
Hilldale Home Manager: Eddie Jemison
Singer at Hilldale Home: David Packouz
Rosen: Julian Sergi
Rabbi: Daniel Berson
Kip: Jeremy Tardy
Rosen’s Wife: Ashley Spillers
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.