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dir Todd Phillips
scr Stephen Chin, Todd Phillips, Jason Smilovic
prd Mark Gordon, Bradley Cooper, Todd Phillips
with Jonah Hill, Miles Teller, Bradley Cooper, Ana de Armas, Kevin Pollak, Shaun Toub, JB Blanc, Gabriel Spahiu, Patrick St Esprit, Andrei Finti, Julian Sergi, Dan Bilzerian
release US 19.Aug.16, UK 26.Aug.16
16/US Warner 1h54
Dangerous deals: Teller and Hill
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
With a deep-seated swagger, this film recounts a true story about arms dealers taking advantage of the American government while wallowing in their machismo. Yes, the movie is almost painfully smug, and brazenly neglects its female characters. But it's also informative, entertaining and sharply performed.
in 2005 Miami, David (Teller) is working as a masseur and living with his girlfriend Iz (de Armas) when his school buddy Efraim (Hill) returns to town. Efraim is making a fortune selling weapons to the US military and convinces David to join him. Over the following years, the business expands as David and Efraim travel to Jordan and Iraq to broker increasingly huge deals. Then they bid for a massive job, which requires travelling to Albania and working with a rogue dealer (Cooper). And pulling it off will require bending the law.
Phillips tells this as a lads' story, fast-paced and often blackly hilarious as these guys get deeper into a murky business that's far from above board. The film pulses with energy as money flows from illicit dealings, leading to a life of precarious luxury. Snappy editing and a muscular song score add to the atmosphere, along with some astute cross-cultural observations.
Hill and Teller make a terrific team, representing two sides of a dodgy coin. Efraim is a good-time boy with no moral compass; David is a family man too conscientious to be in this business. Their long friendship and continual clashes feel realistic, even if the script structures this as an escalating series of confrontations that will clearly erupt simply for plotting reasons. The supporting cast is fine, with Cooper adding some offbeat menace in his scenes. But poor de Armas is so sidelined that she's little more than a pretty cardboard cutout.
With its jaggedly witty tone, Phillips seems to be seeking a vibe somewhere in between The Wolf of Wall Street and The Big Short. But the arrogant approach to real events is more reminiscent of Michael Bay's Pain & Gain. This obscures the important message about playing fast and loose with human lives, as if selling weapons to steal cash from the government is just a freewheeling lark. But hundreds of thousands of people are dying as a result, always far off-screen. And stealing from taxpayers is never shown as anything other than opportunism. In other words, this film may be entertaining, but it's also dangerous.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2016 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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