War Dogs (4K Blu-ray) (2016)

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Released 30-Nov-2016

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2016
Running Time 114:12
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 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 $39.95 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
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Czech Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 2160p
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
Korean
Mandarin
Mandarin
Spanish
Portuguese
Arabic
Finnish
Czech
Danish
Norwegian
Polish
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 captured digitally with Arri Alexa XT Plus cameras at 3.4K resolution and was only completed at 2K, which presumably renders this an upscale direct from the digital intermediate. Nevertheless, as with many other "2K upscales," this HEVC/H.265-encoded 4K Ultra HD presentation still provides a worthwhile upgrade for those with the right equipment to watch the disc. A drama of this ilk may seem like a strange choice for a 4K release, but it still looks expensive, with slick cinematography and strong production values, making it an ideal pick which again demonstrates the benefits of format. As ever, Roadshow sourced the disc from overseas - it actually features UK ratings logos. Therefore, Warner Bros. was entirely responsible for authoring the disc.

††† Placed on a dual-layered BD-66 which is more than sufficient to accommodate the movie (there are no other contents on the disc), this UHD presentation provides a slight but noticeable uptick in terms of texture and detail. The standard Blu-ray release looks very good in its own right, especially with a more generous bitrate compared to other Roadshow/Warner Bros. releases, but it did have its limitations - and thankfully this 2160p presentation suffers from no such shortcomings. I noted that the 1080p BD looked too smooth at times, but this isn't an issue anymore. Textures always leap off the screen thanks to the added resolution and superior video codec, never looking smeary even in long shots or tracking shots. The presentation also does much better at resolving the light layer of source noise, which accentuates the texture of the image. In close-ups and even medium shots, every single facial hair is brought out, and you can marvel at the intricacies of each piece of clothing and every set. Sharpness was excellent on the 1080p Blu-ray, and it remains top-notch here - object delineation consistently impresses.

††† However, it's the use of High Dynamic Range where this disc truly soars. War Dogs is a seriously colourful movie; scenes set in Miami are bright and saturated, while the Eastern European sequences are bathed in shades of grey and blue to make such locales look all the more depressing. The HDR grade remains true to the source, providing a rich, vivid colour palette throughout. Contrast here also blows its 1080p counterpart out of the water, and there's much more depth to this presentation - see any cityscape shots, or the scene of David and Efraim on their hotel balcony in Jordan, when the city is visible in the background. Blacks are deeper, and the transfer still manages to bring out plenty of texture under lower-lighting. In fact, details that were either crushed or looked smeary on the standard Blu-ray are better resolved here. Since this 4K disc was a 2016 release from the earlier days of the format, the HDR grade is encoded in HDR10 as opposed to Dolby Vision. It's worth noting that at the time of writing, War Dogs can be streamed on iTunes in Dolby Vision, and therefore a DV encode does exist. Still, I cannot complain about the HDR10 presentation, though I would be interested in viewing the movie in DV.

††† Fortunately, the presentation never falls victim to any encoding anomalies like aliasing or banding, nor was the video subject to unnecessary digital processing - rather, War Dogs looks precisely as it did in the cinema, but with more "pop" owing to the use of HDR. War Dogs will never be perceived as a reference-quality 4K disc to truly win over those who are hesitant about upgrading, but it is a solid presentation on its own merits with outstanding textures and colours. And for a $50 million drama, you can't ask for much better. I'm glad that the movie received the UHD treatment and I'm glad to own this disc.

††† Multiple 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/Warner Bros. 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. This 2160p presentation therefore features the exact same audio that was present on the standard Blu-ray, and my thoughts remain unchanged.

††† 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 pulsing original score is immersive and clear, making good use of the surround channels. Nevertheless, there could definitely be more surround activity at certain points, since this is "only" a 5.1 track. This is a robust track all things considered, without any encoding issues, and itís hard to make any complaints.

††† To maximise international potential for this 4K disc, it's seriously packed with additional language options, all presented in lossy Dolby Digital 5.1. However, I was only interested in the primary lossless English track for the purposes of this review.

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

Extras

††† The 4K disc itself contains no special features, but the set comes packaged with the standard Blu-ray that offers a few video extras.

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 to be identical. Buy local.

Summary

††† War Dogs confidently stands up to repeat viewings. It's an engaging drama elevated by strong performances and a slick technical presentation, finding Phillips at the top of his game. It's not perfect, but I liked it even more upon revisiting.

††† This 4K UHD Blu-ray is undeniably the superior way to experience this drama on home video. The video excels in its use of HDR and the audio is sufficient, though the lack of supplemental material is very unfortunate. Nevertheless, this one comes recommended.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Wednesday, October 25, 2017
Review Equipment
DVDLG UP970 4K UHD HDR Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayLG OLED65E6T. 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.
AmplificationSamsung Series 7 HT-J7750W
SpeakersSamsung Tall Boy speakers, 7.1 set-up

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