It’s sad Wolf of Wall Street set in Iraq and Albania. The characters are less colorful and lovable, the situation less ritzy and glamorous and the overall chain of events less of a rollercoaster. Simply put, it’s a less talented writer and director’s attempt at using Scorsese’s film as a cookie cutter mold for theirs. If plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery, War Dogs should be making Martin blush.
Every stylistic choice is the same. Dramatic voice overs from the skeezy yet endearing law-dodging main characters are almost word for word identical in their beats (swap out “A fucking Hibachi grill?!” for “the cardboard box guy?!” and it’s the same script), characters act as plot devices in the same ways (Rugrat=the Jewish dry-cleaner); hell, even the inevitable FBI deconstruction montage at the end is a near frame for frame rip-off when you compare War Dogs to Wolf, right down to the upbeat music playing over it. Even the overall tone of the acts is identically structured.
But enough about comparisons. How does War Dogs stack up on its own? Well, it’s fine. Serviceable. The best scene is easily the one from the trailers involving the triangle of death (“we drive through all triangles, ‘cluding your mom’s”), the sole time Todd Phillips embraces his own style of storytelling rather than trying to emulate someone else’s. Good scene.
Beyond that though, it’s a pretty dreary, bleak movie, both in content and execution. The script is painfully expository and ham-fisted at points, the acting is good across the board but can’t take off due to the aforementioned writing issues, and the directing is uninspired. Not to mention these issues can’t be masked by rip-roaring fun or humor since neither are in the movie for very long. The bulk of it is a depressing slog through one guy’s obsession with making bad choices.
I had fun with it, but only just enough to be a hair above being completely apathetic. Not worth $13, to say the least. Matinee price, ladies and gents. That’s my recommendation.