Todd Phillips’ dramedy “War Dogs,” starring Miles Teller and Jonah Hill arrives in theaters this Friday, August 19. For those unfamiliar with the picture, it’s based on the true story of two young men, David Packouz (Teller) and Efraim Diveroli (Hill), who won a $300 million contract from the Pentagon to arm America’s allies in Afghanistan. If you’re deciding if you want to go see it, here’s what the critics thought.
IndieWire’s David Ehrlich wrote in his review that the gunrunner comedy “shoots blanks,” but he does praise Hill for his performance: “Teller gets the job done, but this isn’t his movie. Hill, on the other hand, is extraordinary…Hill embodies everything that’s best about the film around him: He’s funny, daft and broken in a way that’s more fun to gawk at than it is to fix. In a story that’s supposedly about the payoffs and perils of taking big risks, he’s the only one who puts his money where his mouth is.”
Owen Gleiberman of Variety called Phillips’ comedy “his first true grown-up movie,” that’s “nimble, gripping, and [a] terrific one, with plenty of laughs.” He also agreed with IndieWire about Hill’s acting chops by writing, “As for Hill, amazingly, he forms a direct connection to the audience even though he’s playing an irredeemable, mostly charm-free jerk who may, in fact, be a reckless sociopath. We should, objectively, be repelled by him, but in ‘War Dogs,’ Hill, more than ever, is a true star, with a hellbent charisma that comes from deep within.”
“Fun enough, as late-summer studio comedies go,” is The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy’s bottom line. He adds in his critique, “It’s not possible to claim that Efraim and David are charming or even good company, so irresponsible is the former and lacking in character is the latter. But the combination of bluster and maybe even partial insanity in the former and optimistic gullibility in the latter combines with the outrageous situations they bring upon themselves to keep you warily fascinated, if not charmed.”
Entertainment Weekly’s Leah Greenblatt gave the film a B-, though, for her, the best part of the picture was the “Wolf of Wall Street” actor. “A lot of what makes ‘War Dogs’ work comes down to Hill, who is operating at maximum density here physically (he reportedly gained weight specifically for the part) but whose unhinged charisma also anchors the movie,” Greenblatt wrote. “His Efraim is an unrepentant liar, a shameless opportunist, and possibly a sociopath; he’s also by far the most interesting thing happening onscreen.”
“Jonah Hill is a standout,” is what Brian Triutt of USA Today stated. “While the sheer number of bullets outnumber the laughs in ‘War Dogs’ — to be fair, there are a lot of bullets — Phillips’ direction and Hill’s wild-child performance are the bomb in this escapade of doltish dudes doing dumb things,” he added.
On the more negative side is Alonso Duralde of The Wrap, who believed that “director Todd Phillips doesn’t know if his tale of 20-something arms dealers is a satire, a cautionary tale or a rags-to-riches saga. It winds up being nothing.” He’s not quite a fan of the film and wrote that their big plan doesn’t quite work out and that “one of the main problems with ‘War Dogs’ is that David is bland and Efraim is such a conniving sociopath that it’s hard to give the slightest of damns what happens to either of them.”
“War Dogs” arrives in theaters August 19.