Tuesday, 30 August 2016


Todd Phillips astutely acknowledges the tonal ambiguity in his source story in War Dogs, habituated adjacent to the absurdity that was surely what attracted this established comedy director to this tallest, yet truest, of tales. And then he barges in, as winningly brash and unsubtle as ever, although with much of the winningness negated by the sheer inappropriateness of this approach with this material. War Dogs is outrageous - we get that. War Dogs is funny - when it's not trying (not hard enough) to be dramatic, and when it's not trying and failing to be funny, then yes, it is actually funny, and we may indeed have Phillips to credit for that. But that's all rather by the by; what this film needs is a steady, measured guiding hand through its incredible (almost literally) real-life plot, writing and direction that both acknowledge the tonal ambiguity herein and know how to wield it. Phillips simply tacks his brutish, bro-ish style on and runs with it, resulting in a film that only occasionally matches content and treatment. It's all very well when Phillips finds the right opportunity to inject some humour into the story - not so well when he finds the wrong opportunity, though. And when it calls for a more intelligent, sensitive touch, he's at a total loss, simply draining the film of energy rather than devising a new strategy for approaching serious-minded material. Which isn't to comment that the film is drained of all interest, though - even in the least competent hands, War Dogs remains an inherently great story. A shame, though, that Hollywood's idea of a great story is once again one that revolves around the heterosexual white man's sense of entitlement and feeling of rejection from a society he once thought, and still thinks, belongs to him. Apparently, these dogs still haven't had their day.