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War Dogs Blu-ray Review

War Dogs (2016) movie poster War Dogs

Theatrical Release: August 19, 2016 / Running Time: 114 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Todd Phillips / Writers: Stephen Chin, Todd Phillips, Jason Smilovic (screenplay); Guy Lawson (Rolling Stone article "Arms & the Dudes")

Cast: Jonah Hill (Efraim Diveroli), Miles Teller (David Packouz), Ana de Armas (Iz), Kevin Pollak (Ralph Slutsky), Bradley Cooper (Henry Girard), JB Blanc (Bashkim), Shaun Toub (Marlboro), Patrick St. Espirit (Captain Philip Santos), Alin Georgiou Popa (Packaging Guy), Eddie Jemison (Hilldale Home Manager), Gabriel Spahiu (Enver), Jeremy Tardy (Kip), Dan Bilzerian (Himself), David Packouz (Singer at Hilldale Home)

Buy War Dogs from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital HD DVD 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital HD Instant Video

With War Dogs, Todd Phillips, the director of Old School, Due Date, and The Hangover trilogy, seems to take a recent page from the playbook of his fellow commercially proven,
technically proficient comedy filmmaker Adam McKay. McKay's latest effort, The Big Short, turned him into an Oscar winner and double nominee. Like that acclaimed film about the financial collapse, War Dogs tells a true recent story of topical relevance with plenty of flair and humor less farcical than the director's previous comedies.

Miles Teller plays our narrating protagonist, David Packouz, who as the film opens in 2005 is working as a licensed massage therapist in Miami Beach. When his girlfriend Iz (Ana de Armas) tells him she is with child, David needs a new plan for financial security, having just blown his life savings on a bulk order of high quality bed sheets that no retirement home wants to buy.

Efraim (Jonah Hill) and David (Miles Teller) soon get in over their heads arranging for arms deals in the Middle East.

At a mutual friend's funeral, David reconnects with Efraim (Jonah Hill), his Scarface-loving, coke-snorting best friend from junior high. Happy to reconnect, the two twentysomething former classmates are soon going into business with one another, as Ephraim gives David a crash course on the process of the United States military handing out lucrative weapon contracts to the highest bidders on an active and public website.

Soon, David and Efraim emerge as international arms dealers, making big money by reselling guns at a profit without having to do much more than that. An order of Berettas from their native Italy creates complications, as David and Efraim have to fly to Jordan to bypass an embargo against shipping firearms from Italy to Iraq. These two undereducated men find themselves being chased in Fallujah after stopping for gas and crossing what is known as "The Triangle of Death." But they make good on their deal and that is just the tip of the iceberg.

It isn't long before David, now a father, and the increasingly bold Efraim are commanding multi-million dollar deals on a massive order for 100 million rounds of ammunition. This gig leads them to Albania via Henry Girard (a scarce but terrific Bradley Cooper, who is also a producer), a shady businessman whose terrorist watch list status prohibits him from dealing directly with the US government. Needless to say, it too hits a few snags. The lies that David has to tell to put Iz at ease produce a strain on their marriage. Tension also forms between David and Efraim, as their business ethics begin to diverge.

Bradley Cooper reunites with his "Hangover" director both as a "War Dogs" producer and as scene-stealing watch-listed businessman Henry Girard.

War Dogs feels a lot like The Big Short, though it doesn't have to explain nearly as many terms and concepts. It also feels like Phillips' emulation of Martin Scorsese, with certain shots and beats seemingly paying direct homage to Goodfellas and Hill's chuckly performance recalling his Oscar-nominated work on Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street (as well as multiple Joe Pesci characters).

Emulating Goodfellas is far from a surefire recipe for success, but Phillips and his less seasoned co-writers Stephen Chin (Another Day in Paradise) and Jason Smilovic (Lucky Number Slevin, TV's "My Own Worst Enemy") do succeed with a sharp, witty, and energetic new take on the American Dream by way of a Rolling Stone article.

Teller, rebounding from the already forgotten Fantastic Four fiasco, and Hill are equally compelling as the film's co-leads. Their work is complemented by a dutiful supporting cast, led by the aforementioned Cooper and Kevin Pollak, picking up his first noteworthy credit in ages as Efraim's Jewish laundromat financier. Phillips' gifts as a director were already just as plain to see as McKay's, especially on a technical level. But he reinforces them here on what is his most "dramatic" and suspenseful film to date. Mixing comedy and drama is a challenge, but one that Phillips pulls off repeatedly with grace. The film benefits from a first-rate soundtrack filled not with songs of the late Noughties but from all eras so long as they have great holding power. Image and sound are often in pleasant unison and that helps the film sustain its agreeable atmosphere for nearly two full hours.

Were it opening in theaters now, War Dogs would be met with higher expectations, tougher criticism and some genuine Golden Globes potential. Instead, its arrival at the end of summer made it a nice high note on which to end the season. Despite favorable reviews, War Dogs was not the formidable box office force that many past Phillips movies have been. It earned a just okay $43 million domestic, but that was matched overseas.

On this week of Thanksgiving and Black Friday, War Dogs joins the growing class of new Warner films that the studio does not treat to one of their long-standard combo packs. Instead, it gets separate single-disc Blu-ray and DVD editions, the former of which is reviewed here.

War Dogs Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: November 22, 2016
Suggested Retail Price: $29.98
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($28.98 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Phillips brought more flair to The Hangover trilogy than most would assume necessary, so it's no surprise that the more serious, grounded in reality War Dogs looks sharp too. The same can be said of Warner's Blu-ray presentation, which gives us the moderately stylized film as intended with nary a concern. Full of good songs and some artillery effects, the 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack is lively and commendable.

"General Phillips: Boots on the Ground" documents this demanding international production. The real David Packouz, seen in "War Dogs: Access Granted", bears little resemblance to Miles Teller.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray includes three extras. "General Phillips: Boots on the Ground" (8:38) looks at the film in terms of Todd Phillips' direction but also in more general terms like filming all over the world.

"War Dogs: Access Granted" (10:08) reflects on the improbable true story, with the real David Packouz sharing his perspective, which is complemented by some relevant archival footage and the cast and crew's comments.

The animated short "Pentagon Pie" uses rats to explain Fed Biz Opps. War Dogs' Blu-ray menu, like the poster and cover art, emulates the original "Scarface" one-sheet.

Last but perhaps not least is "Pentagon Pie" (2:49), a short animated video in the vein of "Schoolhouse Rock"
using rats to explain Fed Biz Opps.

The static, scored menu gives us an expanded version of the cover art, which recycles the Scarface-inspired theatrical poster design.

The disc opens with a promo for 4K Ultra HD and a trailer for The Accountant.

Joining the pink-labeled disc inside the unslipcovered eco-friendly keepcase is an insert bearing your Digital HD with UltraViolet code and promoting 4K Ultra HD titles.

David (Miles Teller) and Efraim (Jonah Hill) show up stoned for the meeting where they land a huge multi-million dollar contract, by coming in way below the competition.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

War Dogs borrows from better films, but its true story and spirited execution are absorbing enough not to mind. This crime drama is fun and funny enough to recommend to anyone who can handle crude dialogue. Warner's Blu-ray is basic, but the feature presentation serves the film well. It's definitely a disc to rent and one you might enjoy enough to own at the right price.

Buy War Dogs from Amazon.com:
Blu-ray + Digital HD / DVD / 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital HD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
New to Disc: Hands of Stone Hell or High Water Punch-Drunk Love Imperium
Directed by Todd Phillips: The Hangover The Hangover Part II The Hangover Part III Due Date Road Trip
Jonah Hill: The Wolf of Wall Street Moneyball Superbad | Miles Teller: Divergent
Bradley Cooper: American Sniper Joy American Hustle Silver Linings Playbook Burnt
The Big Short The Nice Guys Middle Men A Hologram for the King Scarface Wall Street 99 Homes Pain & Gain

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Reviewed November 22, 2016.



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