WAR DOGS – review


Based on a true story, “War Dogs” follows two friends in their early 20s (Jonah Hill and Miles Teller) living in Miami Beach during the Iraq War who exploit a little-known government initiative that allows small businesses to bid on U.S. Military contracts.  Starting small, they begin raking in big money and are living the high life. But the pair gets in over their heads when they land a 300 million dollar deal to arm the Afghan Military.  A deal that puts them in business with some very shady people, not the least of which turns out to be the U.S. Government.war3

In 2005 Miami, David Packouz (Teller) is working as a masseur and living with his girlfriend Iz (Ana de Armas) when his junior high school buddy Efraim Diveroli (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 puts them in over their heads requiring travelling to Albania and working with a rogue dealer, Henry (Bradley Cooper).  And pulling it off forces bending of the law.war1

Director Todd Phillips (The Hangover) tells this as a best friend’s, fast-paced and often hilarious story as these friends get deeper into questionable business, backstabbing and profiteering. The film is full of thrills and humor, as money flows from illicit dealings, leading to a life of luxury.  The serious parts merge seamlessly into the amusing story.war4

Hill and Teller make a great team, representing two sides of a dangerous partnership.  Efraim has never pursued a legit business and has no moral compass; while David is a stoner, and a family man who is licensed as a massage therapist with a side hustle of selling quality sheets to retirement homes and has a pregnant girlfriend to support (de Armas). Their long friendship and continuous fighting feels realistic, eventually erupting into a fall-out. The supporting cast is fine, with Cooper adding some offbeat toughness in his scenes. However, de Armas is cast as a little more than a pretty cardboard cutout.war5

Phillips seems to be seeking a vibe somewhere in between The Wolf of Wall Street and The Big Short. But the approach to real events is more reminiscent of Michael Bay’s Pain & Gain.  A good solid film, very entertaining, funny, informative and well performed.  Highly recommend the price of a ticket to see this one!

Lance Roshel

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