"War Dogs" is a mildly amusing, but ultimately disturbing true story about two so-called friends from high school who meet up again in their early 20's, living in Miami Beach, and start up a business selling arms to the U.S. government. Jonah Hill and Miles Teller play Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz, the two hotshot wannabes who end up with a $300 million contract from the Pentagon to supply weapons to the Afghanistan army.
Based on the "Rolling Stone" article "Arms and the Dudes" by Guy Lawson, "War Dogs" is an indictment of all that is wrong with this country. It's a shame, though, that the screenplay by Stephen Chin, Todd Phillips and Jason Smilovic isn't as good as Diveroli's and Packouz' brainstorm.
It's almost impossible to fathom that our government, especially the Pentagon, would allow such harebrain practices to unfold, but it seems, from the script anyway, that the previous administration didn't care who supplied their artillery.
Hill and Teller make a fairly decent duo. Hill, now a seasoned veteran, looks a tad old to be playing someone in his early 20's, and I'd be willing to let that slide if the dialogue was more believable. Because it doesn't really matter how good the two lead actors may be, if the script is lame --- like having everything perfectly laid out for the audience, and then repeated --- it's difficult to recommend the film.
Bradley Cooper makes a couple of brief appearances as Henry Girard, a major American arms dealer who is no longer welcome in the U.S. for more than 48 hours. So, if you're going to see "War Dogs" to see Cooper, you'll be mighty disappointed.
"War Dogs" isn't a terrible movie, it just isn't a very good one. Hill and Teller are capable of so much more. I abhor seeing talented actors wasted on less-than-acceptable writing.
Opinion: Wait for DVD
If "War Dogs" was not based on a true story, it would be regarded as just another silly script. But it is real, it is relatively recent --- the events took place less than 10 years ago --- and it is entertaining.
Director and co-writer Todd Phillip's major claim to fame is the original "The Hangover" in 2009, which he directed, but did not write. Unfortunately, he also helmed and co-wrote the two "Hangover" sequels, not-so-cleverly titled "The Hangover Part II" and "The Hangover Part III", which were abysmal. But with "War Dogs" he has, at least for now, reached the top of his game again. I would call it a drama with comic overtones.
Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill) and David Packouz (Miles Teller) are two friends who collaborate on a scheme --- legal, for the most part --- to purchase arms and ammunition from foreign entities, then re-sell the goods to the U.S. Department of Defense for use in the war in Afghanistan. Hill and Teller are sufficiently convincing as 25-year-olds who stand to rake in millions of dollars.
Bradley Cooper, who also produces here, is effective in the supporting role of Henry Girard. He's a devious and dangerous intermediary with all the connections the boys need to pull off their plans.
But if nothing else, this film proves that guys who think they're smart are not always the sharpest knives in the drawer. And greed has a way of derailing even the most foolproof of plans. In retrospect, what turns out to be the turning point in the story, Diveroli and Packouz are negotiating the cost of repackaging ammunition. When the deal is ridiculously low in their favor, it's all they can do to keep from laughing. Pretending to discuss the offer, Diveroli whispers to Packouz "what do you want to do for dinner?" It's a memorable scene in the movie.
"War Dogs" is vaguely reminiscent of another buddy film involving international dealings, "The Falcon and the Snowman" from 1985. Starring Sean Penn and Timothy Hutton, it is the better film and is also much more tense. "War Dogs" is less a thriller than a character study about how a supposed friendship can erode as circumstances dictate.
Opinion: See It Now!