Jonah Hill and Miles Teller make a killing in Todd Phillipsâ€™ gun-runner comedy.
With its ultra-serious subject matter (gun trafficking) and bro-comic tone, War Dogs exists in the middle ground between comedy and drama – particularly as itâ€™s a true story. Thatâ€™s exactly the way Todd Phillips (The Hangover) wants it. â€œA comedic drama, I think thatâ€™s probably the best way to put it – a drama with comedy, or is it a comedy with drama?â€ says the writer/director.
â€œItâ€™s one of those movies – and Iâ€™m not comparing this, so donâ€™t be like, â€˜He thinks heâ€™s David O. Russellâ€™ – but itâ€™s almost like American Hustle where you go, â€˜What was that?â€™â€
Itâ€™s a tricky balance, and Phillips is aware heâ€™s treading on eggshells. As he reminds Teasers, even GoodFellas has moments of levity, and in response to claims his film is â€˜The Hangover meets The Wolf Of Wall Streetâ€™, he smiles: â€œAll fine comparisons, Iâ€™ll take them all.â€
Such chatter isnâ€™t idle, either. War Dogs has a sense of anarchic energy and comic flourishes amid a serious theme that might remind you of Scorsese or Russell. After creating an unexpected comedy monster with Hangover, itâ€™s tempting to assume this is Phillipsâ€™ bid to be taken seriously, but he says the Rolling Stone article on which the film is based just came along at a fortuitous time.
â€œNot every article is worthy of a movie,â€ he says. â€œBut the more I kept thinking about it the more I thought about the casting opportunities and the mayhem opportunities and it just got more and more interesting.â€
Casting the right actors to play (anti) heroes Efraim and David – friends who get into black market arms dealing – wasnâ€™t easy. â€œIt was a process,â€ Phillips says of casting Jonah Hill and Miles Teller. â€œIt kept getting moved around because we wrote too many drafts and when you do that suddenly this actorâ€™s not available, that guy is. We wrote it for Jonah but not Miles. It wasnâ€™t on my radar who David was yet. I hadnâ€™t figured it out.â€
With Hill and Teller well versed in comedy and drama, Phillips certainly found the right dogs for the job.