‘War Dogs’ and the cinema of cool

Clip It: Each day, Jon Davis looks at the world of trailers, featurettes, and clips and puts it all in perspective.

We freeze frame on the actor in the middle of the action. Voice over: “My name is…” and then he tells us his name and how he started out as a regular guy and now he's way over his head. Cut to a scene where he's just a humble dude suffering the indignities of life. Then cut to a scene where he enters the high-stakes world of big money. Then cut to club scenes and shots of cash floating around. Don't forget the guns clicking in time with a sexy soundtrack, which is a combination of classic rock and techno music. 

Have you seen this before? I feel like you have. I used to like the story of douchebros making mad bank (or “stacks” it's up to you) while slaying with pithy dialogue as much as the next guy. More than the next guy. But I also feel like Wolf of Wall Street was the end all and all be all of this particular subject matter. Can there ever be a movie about douchebro success that tops that film? It's the platonic ideal of a douchebro movie. 

It looks like director Todd Phillips (Hangover movies) is following Adam McKay (Anchorman movies) in the comedy director making a serious-subject-handled-with-irreverence genre. Adam did it with The Big Short – seriously, great movie – and maybe Todd can deliver something just as excellent here.

I have my doubts because I think what's missing is heart. Perhaps the filmmakers feel they got that taken care of with Miles Teller's character having a love interest. But when the lead is 22-years-old, do we really care how that works out? He'll be fiiiiine. That's just lip service to heart. Maybe they could have looked toward Wall Street, where Charles Sheen is making money hand over fist but his father does not approve. That gives the movie moral weight. If Teller or Jonah Hill's character had parents who fought in a war while they choose profiteer off war, the tension that results might be something that grounds our two festive frat boys into something more interesting. Otherwise, yeah, I think I've seen this movie.