If you’re a big Jonah Hill fan, you’re undoubtedly aware of the fact that he starred opposite Miles Teller in the perplexing dark comedy War Dogs. Helmed by Joker and The Hangover director Todd Phillips and written by Phillips, Stephen Chin, and Jason Smilovic, War Dogs was marginally successful at the box office but failed to resonate with critics. While far from Hill’s best movie, War Dogs showcased a performance that perfectly captured his ethically gross character, real-life arms dealer Efraim Diveroli. So, bottom line: if you have not seen War Dogs but want to, you are in luck: it will be hitting streaming within the next few days.
That’s right: War Dogs is coming to Netflix this Monday on February 8.
War Dogs centers around two young arms dealers, the aforementioned Diveroli and David Packouz who trick and weasel their way to a contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Things obviously go awry rather quickly, and the two find themselves in hotter water than either of them ever bargained for. Miles Teller, a young actor who gained acclaim for his performance in the outstanding drama Whiplash, stars as Packouz, Efraim’s business partner and a guy with tons to lose (a wife, a kid, etc). Teller also turns in an impressive and inspired performance, although he didn’t receive the same recognition that Jonah Hill did.
War Dogs opened in theaters on August 19, 2016 to lukewarm reviews. Writing for Complex, Kristen Yoonsoo Kim said, “Sure, there’s voiceover, free frames, and morally reprehensible characters, but it reads more like a parody film than an inspired one. Countering this with a slightly more positive review was Confessions From A Geek Mind’s Kelechi Ehenulo, who remarked, “Don’t expect anything special or some eye-opening revelation. War Dogs shouldn’t come as a surprise. Just enjoy the cautionary tale of this crazy journey and the brilliant performance by Jonah Hill.”
When viewed through that lens, War Dogs has the potential to be immensely enjoyable. It is funny (if a bit uneven), shocking in more than one instance, for more than one reason, and a great showcase for both of its leads, who are relentlessly charismatic in their respective roles. Todd Phillips kills it in the director’s chair, but the script is lacking in imagination and verve. It’s not the movie that those involved probably wanted it to be, but it is worth at least one watch.
The $40 million-dollar comedy ended up raking in just over $86 million worldwide, a far cry from the $467 million that 2009’s smash-hit The Hangover (also directed by Phillips) so easily earned. Still, like I said, the film is worth a watch, especially because Jonah Hill absolutely kills it in his role. If you appreciate his craft and think he elevates any and every project he appears in, you are right and this won’t change your mind in the slightest. It will just reinforce what Hill fans have always known: the guy can act his pants off and is one of comedy’s best, brightest talents. He even earned a Golden Globe nomination for his turn as Diveroli. Ana de Armas and Bradley Cooper star in supporting roles, but neither of them is given nearly as much of a chance to shine as Teller and Hill. That is totally fine, though, because Ana de Armas was the standout of 2019’s Rian Johnson-directed whodunit Knives Out.
War Dogs scored a 61% on Rotten Tomatoes and a score of 57 on Metacritic. CinemaScore voters, however, awarded the movie a “B” average, which is a tad higher than I would rate it but definitely not an unfair grade. I would put it at a B- or a C+. Do not let me dissuade you from watching it, though. Jonah Hill is incredible in it. Almost as great as he was in 21 Jump Street and Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street.
The film joins several other overlooked gems on Netflix, including Ashton Kutcher’s Killers and xXx: State of the Union. It will be interesting to see if enough viewers watch it for it to climb to that coveted Top 10 list. If so, we could see this Jonah Hill movie get some reappraisal now that it will be more easily available for people to go back and revisit.