2016 is officially the year of missed opportunities for cinema. From lackluster sequels to sequels that were good with bad marketing strategies to new, original ideas that simply can’t deliver the message they are trying to convey. War Dogs had a great chance to be a scathing story on the early days of the messy Bush/Cheney invasion of Iraq, and the ridiculous systems put in place by Cheney and the Pentagon that created these low-balling arms dealers. But instead, what do we get? A bro tale of two white dudes taking on the system. Because yeah! We’ve never seen that before! This was a story that was tossed underhand to freaking Mickey Mantle, and then Mantle just swung right through it.
Despite this story being told in a terrible way, the story itself is still fascinating. I did not know that there was a procurement system like this in play during the middle and latter portions of the Iraq War that the government used for its arms deals in Iraq. I definitely want to do more research on this now because of this film. The other good part of this film is Bradley Cooper. Even though his character makes no sense and I don’t even think he exists in real life at all (and if he does, I’m pretty sure he’s of a different ethnicity, which means this is another example of whitewashing), it’s still nice to see Cooper, the recipient of my worst actor of 2015 award, be, well, not terrible. But, he’s only barely in this film, and pretty much everything else here falls flat on its face.
With a Miles Teller voiceover that goes throughout the entire film and explains everything to us down to the freaking musical selections, it was as if this film was trying to explain its story to a bunch of 2-year-olds. WB seems to have this idea that all you need to do with your musical selections nowadays is just have a bunch of pop music in your film that people recognize and you’re good. There was little thought behind any of these musical selections, like having our first shots of the American military be with “Fortunate Son” playing in the background. Because we’ve never heard that song play behind the military before in a film, right? Guys. Seriously. Take a page out of Martin Scorsese and David O. Russell’s playbook when it comes to effectively using pop music in your film. It just requires going a bit deeper than surface level. It was just so clichéd!
Ultimately, this film falls flat because of an abysmal script. I still don’t know how to classify this film. Is it a comedy? A satire? A drama? An action film? I have no idea. Are we supposed to hate our two frat bro “heroes” who want to take the power back and stick it to the man and have immense success until it all falls apart? I have no idea. I barely even understood that sentence. Kind of like this film.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, I thought this film sucked. This was director Todd Phillips’ first foray out of comedies and into a “drama” (which is what I’ve decided to call it) and, after watching this, all I can say is “Wow. Go back to making comedies, please.” Because this is a story that should’ve been in Oscar talk for this year. What a wasted opportunity.