War Dogs Blu-ray Review

War Bonds

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The issue with War Dogs isn’t the story. Two kids, one a narcissistic high school dropout, the other a door-to-door massage therapist, feed on the war economy of George Bush’s administration. They’re international arms dealers, barely out of high school, taking in millions from Pentagon contracts.

War Dogs depicts the pair driving through Baghdad, illegally shifting pistols meant for the Afghan army. They’re shot at by rebels, and braver than the real world duo ever were. Then again, making a movie about two kids impersonating people on cell phones leaves little narrative to chew on.

So this is what director/co-writer Todd Phillips draws up, hoisting his comedic might from The Hangover and his adeptness at sensational circumstance – but in a pedestrian way. It’s wild, it’s kooky, and in its reality, inherently unlikable at every level. From the easily swindled war-happy government, the bone-headed Pentagon, and the shrewd, ego-led duo who profited from their ilk. The whole system breaks down.

… the pair execute a financial fantasy for a generation jettisoned into a workforce with ever limited choice

David Packouz (Miles Teller) and Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill) form AEY. The acronym is meaningless. Their earnestness to score millions plays to Teller and Hill – they’re great, particularly Hill and his suitably obnoxious laugh. In some sense, the pair execute a financial fantasy for a generation jettisoned into a workforce with ever limited choice. Here they scan computers on the Pentagon’s own version of eBay, where lowest bidder feeds a war machine and empathy slides away as the checks slide in.

Embedded into War Dogs are the lessons of Brian DePalma’s Scarface, an apt connection which brings the CEOs of AEY together based on their greed. However, this doesn’t necessarily alleviate the pedestrian feel either. In terms of character, Packouz’s predictable domestic life and Diveroli – from the moment he’s introduced, swinging gold chains and Rolex at a funeral – never comes off as anything other than an untrustworthy mouthpiece. Heroes and villains don’t change, although Packouz’s own pitiful decisions slowly erode his audience empathy.

In the greater sense, the lesson here is how two kids who find a government sanctioned loophole can strike it rich, and even if caught, score a movie about their exploits. War Dogs upping the pseudo “cool” factor exacerbates things, and artificially so. These are kids who made phone calls, shysters pretending to be other people, not those who nearly took a bullet for their cause. Interesting, even if the greater sum is bureaucratic negligence.

War Dogs Blu-ray screen shot 12

Video

Extensive fidelity highlights this disc, rich in facial definition and outstanding exterior shots. Shots of Jordan stand-in Morocco pour on the fine detail. A mild round of noise and consistent layer of artificial grain come cleanly resolved by Warner’s unusually flawless encoding.

Generally saturated with pleasing flesh tones, primaries have their time. Outside of the Albanian scenes (soaked in excessive blues) color is maintained. Added warmth to the desert scenery has bite too, although not to the latter’s degree.

Further raising visual power is contrast and black levels. Both hit their marks, adding substantial weight. War Dogs sets itself up near beach side properties with plentiful sunlight. At times, it’s too strong, bleaching out small elements. That’s minor. During a nighttime drive, blacks keep the image dense and powerful.

Audio

The single chase/shootout shows how the DTS-HD mixing can produce great positioning. Bullets fire and ping their targets with exceptional spread, both in the surrounds and stereos. Add a bit of low-end support from the escaping truck’s engine too. This scene comes prefaced by a brief gun range stint, shooters nicely held in the stereos.

War Dogs sonic make up is of ambiance otherwise, filling space in an Albanian weapons storage depot or boosting the volume of a club scene. Some of the Middle Eastern streets perform with the same capabilities.

Extras

There’s not much here. Todd Phillips earns focus with Boots on the Ground, a small making of detailing the Rolling Stone article which inspired the film and the adaptation process. Access Granted brings in the real David Packouz to discuss his time in the business. Finally, the animated Pentagon Pie comes in the form of Schoolhouse Rock, singing the loopholes which let Packouz and Diveroli make their millions. All together, these three make up 20 minutes of bonuses.

Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process. Patreon supporters were able to access these screens early, view them as .pngs, and gain access to four War Dogs exclusives.