THE DOGS OF WAR (R) -- At the AMC Academy, K-B Cinema, K-B Cinema 7, NTI Landover Mall, Roth's Mt. Vernon, Roth's Quince Orchard, Roth's Randolph, Roth's Tysons Corner, Showcase Oxon Hiss, Showcase Turnpike and Wheaton Plaza.

Being a mercenary soldier is a dreadful way to make a living. It's not the danger or the frozen morality -- it's the crummy paycheck, which, in "The Dogs, of War," is shown as being the most damning aspect of the profession. When not on a glorious expense account, the hero (played by the stoic-faced Christopher Walken) lives in a roach-infested slum.

True or not, this sort of information is what lends interest to an otherwise pedestrian chase-and-shoot picture. There is another such touch in a scene where the international elite of the trade let drop that they don't know on whose behalf they are plotting a political coup. And one where the hero is subjected to a boring salespitch and bombarded with catalogue pictures when he has to buy illegal munitions.

That mechanical details should be more engrossing than the central struggle by a handful of free-lancers to overthrow an African government may be a result of fiction's having been so outstripped by news. A crazy African dictator who thinks he is God and ruthlessly desroys his opponents can only raise a feeling of deja vu .