War Dogs (Blu-ray) (2016)

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Released 30-Nov-2016

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Featurette-Behind The Scenes-General Phillips: Boots On the Ground
Featurette-Access Granted
Featurette-Pentagon Pie
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2016
Running Time 114:12
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Todd Phillips
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Miles Teller
Jonah Hill
Ana de Armas
Kevin Pollak
Bradley Cooper
Shaun Toub
Patrick St. Esprit
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $29.95 Music Cliff Martinez


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
German Dolby Digital 5.1
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
French
German for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Spanish
Dutch
Danish
Finnish
Icelandic
Norwegian
Swedish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

††† War Dogs is director Todd Phillipsí first directorial endeavour since finishing his tenure on The Hangover trilogy, and it represents a significant change of pace for the filmmaker. Ditching his broad comedic instincts in favour of something more serious, 2016ís War Dogs has laughs here and there, but itís a drama first and foremost, playing out in a similar fashion to Lord of War with traces of Martin Scorsese flicks and Scarface. Tagged as being based on a true story, itís a mostly fictionalised adaptation of the Rolling Stones article ďArms and the DudesĒ (a much better title), and although it has issues in its third act, it provides an intriguing, engaging look at the world of arms dealing. Itís a promising effort for Phillips, who forgoes goofiness in order to build a legitimate sense of danger.

††† David (Miles Teller) is a young masseuse in Miami, but struggles to make ends meet. And just to heighten the financial stress, his young girlfriend Isabella (Ana de Armas) discovers that she is pregnant. A chance encounter reunites David with childhood best friend Efraim (Jonah Hill), a shady salesman who makes a fortune selling guns and ammo to the United States government, who now offer arms contracts to the smaller players. Efraim offers David the opportunity to become his business partner, a job he simply cannot refuse. Lying to his pacifist girlfriend about what heís actually doing, David begins earning more money than he knows what to do with, but endeavours to remain cautious. Choosing to ignore their rule of only bidding for small contracts, David and Efraim team up with veteran arms dealer Henry (Bradley Cooper) to pull off a major job for the government worth tens of millions of dollars.

††† There is a lot of background information to War Dogs, as it delves into the convoluted world of government contracts and arms dealing, which would be unknown territory for most film-goers. Yet, to the credit of Phillips and co-writers Stephen Chin and Jason Smilovic, the film manages to sufficiently convey the stakes and other relevant information in a brisk manner without dumbing down the material. Precarious situations continue to crop up for the boys which are easy to comprehend - including the need to circumvent legislation to get Berettas into Iraq, and conceal the Chinese origins of AK-47 ammunition - and itís fascinating to see the boys working to overcome such issues. Less successful, though, are a handful of contrived plot points, such as a very obvious situation in the third act involving a signed contract thatís left unprotected in an officer drawer. War Dogs does stumble as it approaches the finish line, with Phillips seemingly unsure of where to end the story. The finale is underwhelming to a certain extent, but luckily itís not enough to diminish everything that came before it.

††† Phillips visibly channels Scorsese and Brian De Palma here, with stylish cinematography and an eclectic soundtrack filled with songs to accentuate many of the filmís best moments. Efraim is a self-proclaimed fan of Scarface, too, even decking out his office in a movie poster, which is probably reminiscent of Phillipsí attitude towards the 1983 classic. Teller has been one of Hollywoodís favourite new playthings for years, but apart from a couple of standout performances in smaller indies (The Spectacular Now, Whiplash), the actor has not been able to prove himself (the less said about Divergent and Fant4stic, the better). Luckily, he acquits himself respectably here, though he still doesnít have the presence or gravitas to be a confident leading man. Hill fares a bit better, playing against type as the unscrupulous Efraim, who leaves you wondering whether you should like or distrust him. Itís an understated turn, but he does have his volatile moments. Strong support is also provided by Phillips regular Cooper as a powerful long-time arms dealer, while Kevin Pollak has a few moments to shine as Ralph Slutzky, who owns the dry cleaning business which backs the boysí operation.

††† War Dogs is a definite high point on Phillipsí filmography, which is relieving to see after three consecutive disappointments (2010ís Due Date and the Hangover sequels). Itís also worthwhile in a sea of generic PG-13 blockbusters. In spite of its shortcomings, itís worth seeing. Just donít expect an instant classic like Wolf of Wall Street or Scarface.

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Transfer Quality

Video

††† According to IMDb, War Dogs was shot digitally with Arri Alexa cameras and finished at 2K, and this 1080p, AVC-encoded Blu-ray was presumably sourced directly from the digital intermediate. With the movie being placed on a BD-50 and being afforded an agreeable bitrate, War Dogs looks very good for the most part, occasionally bordering on demo material. The only minor shortcomings are likely attributable to the source, and the limitations of 1080p.

††† I viewed War Dogs theatrically at the cinema, and this Blu-ray looks to be a faithful replication of what I recall seeing. It runs the gamut of colour palettes; in desert settings, the video looks warm, with an orange and yellow push, while scenes in Eastern Europe are grey and grungy. Roadshowís encode handles these scene changes with utmost confidence, and I didnít detect anything in the way of black crush. Due to the stylistic choices of Phillips and cinematographer Lawrence Sher, this is not the sharpest or most detailed presentation youíre likely to see; in scenes set in sunny Miami, for instance, the image is often deliberately blown-out, saturated and bright. Nevertheless, there are no real issues stemming from this, and object delineation is consistently strong.

††† Alexa cameras are known for creating a more cinematic images with light noise, and there is noise here which is attributable to the source, creating a filmic texture. Luckily, the noise is very fine, so ďgrain hatersĒ shouldnít whinge too much. Close-ups here fare the best in terms of detail; every hair and pore is brought out on the actorsí faces. At times, the transfer does look a bit on the smooth side, lacking some detail, but again this comes down to the limitations of 1080p. I was unable to detect any unsightly aliasing, banding or ringing - the presentation is welcomely free of encoding issues. This is an impressive-looking movie, and Roadshow have done a commendable job bringing it to disc.

††† War Dogs is also available on UHD 4K Blu-ray locally from Roadshow. If I get the opportunity to watch the disc, I will compare it to this standard Blu-ray.

††† A variety of subtitle options are available.


Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

††† On the audio front, Roadshow provide a very sturdy DTS-HD MA 5.1 track which does its job very well for a drama of this nature. Of course, audiophiles are destined to bemoan the lack of an Atmos track, but War Dogs wasnít mixed in Atmos. Hell, the 4K Blu-ray only features the very same lossless 5.1 track thatís featured on this disc. So now that we have this out of the way, onto the actual audio review...

††† For a movie about weapons, there is very little in the way of gunshots. But whenever a firearm is discharged, the resulting shots are nicely crisp, underscored by agreeable subwoofer activity. In other departments, there are no issues with the dialogue to speak of - itís all easy to hear and well-prioritised. Cliff Martinezís original score is immersive and clear, making good use of the surround channels. This is a robust track all things considered, without any issues, and itís hard to make any complaints.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

††† Not much here. We only have twenty minutes of video extras. Better than nothing, I suppose, but a poor effort all the same.

General Phillips: Boots On the Ground (HD; 8:38)

††† A standard extra on most Roadshow/Warner Bros. new release discs, here we have an all-too-brief, EPK-style behind-the-scenes featurette. The cast and crew discuss the story and how the movie was made, intercut with loads of on-set footage. There are interesting anecdotes here, but this extra is too short to provide any substantial insight.

Access Granted (HD; 10:08)

††† A bit of an extension of the previous extra, this featurette is concerned with the real-life story on which the motion picture was based. The real David Packouz is interviewed (Efraim denied involvement in the movie, full stop), while cast and crew talk about what the duo accomplished while they were still very young. Although interesting, more information about the movieís accuracy would have been appreciated.

Pentagon Pie (HD; 2:49)

††† The most bizarre supplement on the disc, this animated video depicts two rats (standing in for the movieís two central characters) singing and talking about how to make money running guns for the government. As I said...bizarre.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

† † All editions worldwide appear identical, apart from differing audio and subtitle options.

Summary

††† War Dogs won't feature on too many "best of" lists for the year, but it's still an engaging drama that's worth watching.

††† Roadshow's Blu-ray release sports top-notch technical specs, but the unfortunate lack of extras does let the disc down. Nevertheless, I'm going to recommend this disc, but only at sale price.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Friday, December 09, 2016
Review Equipment
DVDSamsung UBD-K8500 4K HDR Blu-Ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayLG OLED55C6T. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 2160p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationLG BH7520TW
SpeakersLG Tall Boy speakers, 5.1 set-up, 180W

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