Todd Phillips’ War Dogs tells the true story Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz, two twenty something average schmoes who landed a 300 million dollar military contract from the Pentagon. Their sale, among other items, was to include 100 million rounds of AK-47 rounds. The problem is that most of the rounds were from China which is forbidden under United States law. This was one of many deals that Diveroli’s company, AEY had conducted, exploiting the laws in America to secure contracts that sold arms to conflicts all over the world. Based out of Miami, Diveroli brings his boyhood friend, David and the two make a fortune. War Dogs, originally titled from the Rolling Stone article by Guy Lawson, “Arms and the Dudes” the film is based on, had cast Jesse Eisenberg and Shia LeBouf in the two lead roles. It would have worked but I don’t think it would have been the same kind of film. Jonah Hill and Miles Teller truly shine as our lead characters.
Truth is stranger than fiction and in War Dogs, this is the case. This is an incredible story that is fascinating and revealing of just how easy, with the right connections, it is to become an arms dealer and not even be a supporter of a war. I don’t know many who are actually “pro-war”, but you get my meaning. Todd Phillips, whose main claim to fame has been comedies like Old School, Road Trip, The Hangover franchise, School For Scoundrels, Starsky and Hutch and Due Date, shows he can meld comedy, drama and even action in War Dogs and he does it smoothly and effortlessly. This is a beautifully crafted film; satirically intelligent and very funny. Jonah Hill is Efram and he plays him as an obnoxious cad but still with a sliver of likability that I cannot describe. Miles Teller is David, a masseuse who invested his life savings into high quality bed sheets he wanted to sell to the retirement homes in Miami. Sheets he could not give away, at the end of the day. These two actors have incredible chemistry and make the film work.
A lot would be said for Jonah Hill as Efram, but for my money it is Miles Teller who really shines. He is a phenomenal actor and shows why his star is still rising. Hill is terrific, too, to be sure, but it is Teller who drives the message of this film, as it is seen through his eyes. David has a child on the way with his girlfriend, Iz (played by the jaw droppingly gorgeous Ana de Armas). He needs money to provide a home for their child on the way. Why not arms dealing? “It’s not about being pro-war. It’s about being pro-money,” Efram tells David. The script, penned by Phillips as well as Stephen Chin and Jason Smilovic, is solid and lets the viewers make up their own minds about the end result, but War Dogs is a fast, funny and furious ride through the world, seldom seen by most of us. The pacing is steady and Phillips does not let the film get too bogged down with a lot of extra detail or exposition. This is a smartly written and tremendously acted film and film score composer, Cliff Martinez provides another stand out score that has to be heard in the context of the film to be appreciated, but is equally effective on its own.
A lot of people have criticized this film for glorifying bottom feeders who profit from others misfortune, but I could not disagree more. These two guys get what they deserve, but they are exceedingly lucky. In fact, David Packouz managed to invent the world’s first guitar pedal drum machine called the BeatBuddy, which is still available today. Efraim and David have gone their separate ways but their story is a great one and it has been impeccably brought to the big screen. This is one of the year’s best films and not to be missed.
War Dogs – ***** out of 5
War Dogs – Rated R for language, violence, nudity and adult situations
War Dogs – Run Time is 114 minutes
War Dogs is now playing in theaters. Check your local listings for times and locations.