WAR DOGS is based on the true story of Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz, as written by Guy Lawson in a Rolling Stone article and his subsequent book, and it presents a wonky fictionalisation that doesn't know whether its wants to be a comedy or a legitimate drama. It also marks director Todd Phillips (Road Trip, The Hangover) first venture outside of the lowbrow comedy genre which, naturally, puts him in depths that he can barely stand in.
With that said, the film is far from disastrous and it boasts some genuinely effective details, such as convincing foreign production designs and confident performances from the players. And yet it lacks cohesion. The character dynamics have very little symmetry and the overriding narrative is flat and lifeless. Attempts are made to liven the proceedings with upbeat pop songs and slow-motion action sequences, but those songs are misplaced and those sequences are contrived. The result is a laboured attempt to make a true story “cool” (“Gangsta” comes to mind) featuring two lead actors who deserve better.
WAR DOGS wont be hitting the bottom of many 'best-of' lists this year but it's highly unlikely to register at the top either. Instead it should find itself nestled comfortably in the middle, having left very little impact and being received by most people as 'passable'. Perhaps that's enough for some, but it doesn't quite cut it with me. Had Phillips taken a more serious and concentrated approach to the story he might well have found himself wrapped up in the awards season, and proven himself to be a multifaceted filmmaker. My advice would be to make OLD SCHOOL 2 (it's what he does best).