Reel Talk Double Feature: Suicide Squad and War Dogs

War+Dogs

War Dogs

CJ Housh

Suicide Squad is the newest film in the new DC comic book cannon. It follows a group of super criminals that are released from prison to create a black ops team designed to combat a scenario of a rogue superhero.

Here’s how I imagine this film got made. There’s a man working at DC, let’s call him Jeremy. Jeremy’s boss comes in and asks him what he’s working on.

“It’s this really cool film about supervillains being forced to become superheroes,” said Jeremy.

“Oh, what super villains?” asked Jeremy’s boss.

“Cool ones like Harley Quinn, Killer Crock, and Captain Boomerang.”

“Well Captain Boomerang doesn’t sound cool, but those other two are well written, often funny, is it a funny movie?” asked Jeremy’s boss.

“Boy is it,” said Jeremy. “It’s got a ton of one liners I stole off 2004 Hot Topic t-shirts.”

“Okay,” said Jeremy’s boss. “It’s an ensemble cast, so is it like Guardians of the Galaxy?” 

“Yeah,” Jeremey replied. “Except where Guardians had five main characters I have eight!”

“Don’t you think that’s spreading the camera time a little thin?” asked Jeremy’s boss.

“Yeah, but I’ve fixed it by boiling character down to stereotypes,” Jeremy said.

“People don’t like stereotypes,” said Jeremy’s boss.

“But they do like sexy women, so I’ve put Harely Quinn in booty shorts and I have a scene where she takes off her clothes in front of an army of soldiers.”

“Oh, that’s a good idea. Wait, no it isn’t, we’ve been criticized for a decade because we’re sexist. Also, are you bleeding from your ear?”

“Nope!” Jeremy said, slamming his head against the desk. “I just think that more entertainment should be targeted at teen boys.”

“But entertainment is predominately targeted at teenaged boys,” Jeremy’s boss said, backing toward the door and presumably somebody that could call for some medical attention.

“Yes, but this film also has a message about establishing a family,” Jeremy said. “When you’re different like these people are, you have to make a family out of those you trust and who have your back.”

“Oh, that actually sounds like an interesting message,” Jeremy’s boss said, no longer backpedaling toward the door.

“Thank you,” said Jeremy. “But since I have to introduce two new characters into the team three minutes before the major action sequence, and just summarily kill one of them, I don’t have time to build the comradery. I’ll just tell people it’s there.”

“Wait, no, you’re supposed to show not tell,” said Jeremy’s boss.  “Also if you introduce a character just to kill neither the audience nor the characters will be attached to him so he won’t prove any example.”

“I don’t need to,” Jeremy said, “because it’s edgy.

“I see,” said Jeremy’s boss, who then left the building via his high-rise office window. 

I can’t fathom any other way this film got made.

Suicide Squad is playing Friday, Oct. 28 at 6:30 p.m. at Phelps Theater. Films can be a good way to get us to examine our beliefs. We might have opinions that see events as one way but we ignore the messy things we don’t see. Film can let us examine these things through a character who has different opinions.

War Dogs attempts to do just this. It fails to do that, but it attempts to.

War Dogs is about David, trying to provide for his family, when he meets an old school friend selling arms to the U.S. government. Efraim offers him a job, and while keeping the job secret from his wife, David becomes a government authorized gun runner. When Efraim crosses the line into illegal activities, David must decide what his conscious will allow him to do.

The movie concept is great, it’s pretty original and very interesting. The problem is that the script tried to be a comedy. What this film wanted to be was Scarface, or maybe Goodfellas. Both of these films have moments that make you laugh, but at the same time they have an entirely different tone. It’s like they got the director of the Hangover to direct a script that was trying to be Goodfellas.

Oh, wait, they did. It’s like the Hangover won’t leave me alone.

Where the movie shines is Jonah Hill, something I never thought I’d say in my life. He’s perfect as Efraim, a friend who you care for who just slowly goes too far. The friend you end up not liking, the person that you judge yourself by your association with them. You can see the moments where he decides to go to the point of revenge, he’s the person you want the movie to be about. That is the ultimate failing of the film.

To compare, last year’s Mad Max: Fury Road was Furiosa’s story but Max was the point of view character and Max had the character arc so Max ends up being the main character. In this David is the point of view character, but the story is Efraims. The film wants you to think that David has the arc, but in the end David ends up pretty much back at where he started. Efraim has an arc, in that he starts basically idealistic, crosses a line, and then becomes somebody capable of horrible things.

As a final word, I hate films that end in cliffhangers that don’t matter. There will not be a sequel to War Dogs. Not only did it underperform at the box office, there would be no point to see the result of the cliffhanger.

War Dogs is playing in Phelps theater Thursday, Nov. 3at 2:30 and 6:30 p.m. and Friday, Nov. 4 at 6:30 p.m.. Go if for no other reason than we might need to reevaluate our opinion of Jonah Hill.