Courtesy Warner Brothers
Courtesy Warner Brothers
Many a word has been written about the need for movies with a feminist agenda, or at the very least with an equal-opportunity agenda, or at the very, very least, with strong roles for women. Many of those words have been written by this here reporter. This is not one of those occasions.
No, this is one of those occasions where one sets aside their concern for gender parity in Hollywood. This is one of those occasions where one sets aside their shock over the fact that there are some movies made entirely by men—written by men, directed by men, starring men. Movies in which even the source material, a Rolling Stone article, was written (and presumably edited) by a man. This is one of those occasions where you realize your constant arguments about making the movie industry friendlier to women, apt as they are when speaking of, say, The Avengers, doesn't apply to every single film.
We speak, of course, of War Dogs.
The movie, which hit theaters this weekend, is, by all fair accounts, a bro movie. As you probably know—thanks to some very well-integrated marketing tactics—it stars one Miles Teller and one Jonah Hill and was written and directed by one Todd Phillips, most notorious for bringing the Hangover trilogy to the world. It tells the very true and very insane story of two twenty-somethings from Miami who wound up winning a $300 million government contract to deliver weapons to the military in the Iraq war.
So yes, there are bros aplenty.
There are plenty of reasons why audiences (female and male alike) would elicit a giant groan in response to this film. We'll leave Jonah Hill out of this because, well, what did he ever do to anybody? Instead we'll start with Mr. Teller. Our own personal positive feelings about the promising young actor aside, he is often see by the masses as a major bro and, occasionally, a douchebag. They think that because his many magazine profiles make no qualms about constantly mention that he was Homecoming King in high school. They think that because he has a way of smirking in every picture as though he knows you know he was Homecoming King in high school.
They think that because he named his own Divergent fan base. They think that because he named them Peter's Princesses. They think that because he has openly admitted his girlfriend's full-time job is being with him. They think that because, well, this entire Esquire article.
The same could be said for the initial reaction to War Dogs. For starters, there's the Todd Phillips thing. Then let's consider the fact that the movie's subject matter centers around guns and war and fast cars and money and shooting lines. The initial trailer, which debuted back in March, bears incredible resemblance to that for The Wolf of Wall Street—just swap the Kanye West soundtrack for Steve Aoki's "Delirious." The only women who make it into the entire two minutes and twenty seconds are strippers, and the many males involved say things like "The triangle of death, bro?" and "We drive through all triangles, including your mom's!"
Courtesy Warner Brothers
Your Mom jokes aside, it's easy to quickly write this movie—and the men responsible for bringing it to the screen—as just for the bros. There's plenty to focus on if you do: The gratuitous gun-shooting scenes, the viral video of Teller playing flip cup with Jimmy Fallon during the recent press tour. But to do so would be a mistake and an oversight. Because War Dogs is fun, and even good, and there's still a place for this kind of movie in Hollywood.
For starters, it's worth addressing that it got perhaps the most deceiving trailer cut in history. Because while there are Porsches and there strippers and there is cocaine, none of this is glorified. The flick is instead both smart and fun and actually telling an important story—if you look closely. Efraim and David (Hill and Teller, respectively) may have temporarily found major success and instant wealth while they worked the arms market, but War Dogs is way more focused on everything that was wrong with, as the movie puts it itself, Dick Cheney's America. (For you mills who may not remember this firsthand, let's just say there was some seriously shady dealings going on behind-the-scenes of the Iraq war.)
As these two, yes, major bros, navigate the sketchy world behind supplying the American military with guns and ammunition, they manage to point out the contradictions of the war and the fact that anyone can become a multi-millionaire if they're willing to ignore their morals long enough. Think of its message as The Big Short, but for the war instead of Wall Street. Is this groundbreaking stuff? No, probably not—you can read the original Rolling Stone article for the revelations. But it manages to disguise a bit of commentary in a fun—and funny—package.
Bro movies like this can serve many purposes, but War Dogs might just succeed in getting eyeballs in front of this story that normally would never pay $16 to learn about Dick Cheney conspiracy theories. And hey, there's nothing to be embarrassed about if sometimes you just want to go to a movie theater and watch a totally insane story. Holy S--t moments and jokes about stoner kids need love too, you know. Miles Teller may have ambitions larger than just making douchebags enjoyable onscreen, but we're glad he hasn't totally written off the genre. He can do Whiplash 2 another time; it's still the summer and we're still starved for enjoyable big budget blockbusters.
And in this case, the bros have it.