Directed by Todd Phillips
Starring Jonah Hill, Miles Teller, Bradley Cooper
Released August 19th, 2016
Working as a massage therapist in your twenties doesn’t sound like a bad gig. David Packouz (Miles Teller) smokes a little weed, goes to nice houses, and on occasion has to put up with a few bare asses. When David’s girlfriend Iz (Ana de Armas) announces she’s pregnant, David panics. How will he make ends meet?
Well, why not become an arms dealer for the U.S. government? It’s easy! All you need is a computer and no conscience.
David decides to take the plunge selling weapons to the military after his childhood pal Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill) explains how easy it is, and how much money he’s made doing it (hint: lots). Efraim explains to David that the government opened up arms bidding to anyone after the negative press Dick Cheney received once his ties with Halliburton were exposed.
Director Todd Phillips employs a 1970’s soundtrack and uses freeze frames like a young film student who has just seen Goodfellas for the first time.
So David joins Efraim’s company AEY and the pair bid on government contracts to supply weapons for U.S. troops. David tells Iz he’s just selling bed sheets to the government, since she’s anti-war and he’s worried about her reaction if she learned what he was really doing.
In their quest to win bigger contracts, the pair runs afoul of Henry Girard (Bradley Cooper), an arms dealer who is on a government terror watch-list, and probably not just because of his grimy glasses. Although not a lot of screen time is devoted to Girard, kudos to Cooper for actually creating an intriguing character in the midst of all of this tomfoolery.
Jonah Hill brings a maniacal laugh and not much else to his portrayal of Diveroli. Miles Teller underplays Packouz, a character who is more worried about upsetting his girlfriend than he is about being a war profiteer. Kevin Pollak turns up as Ralph Slutzky, a Jewish dry cleaners owner who is the boys’ silent partner. In real life, their silent partner was a Mormon from Utah, but this movie isn’t a stickler for accuracy.
Truth is stranger than fiction, except when it’s not and you have to embellish, which is the case in War Dogs. The boys never had to run guns themselves in a jeep through Iraq, which is one of the movie’s standout scenes. I understand this isn’t a documentary, but when the highlight of your true story is made up out of whole cloth, your story has problems.
The chief problem with War Dogs is the film isn’t exciting. Director Todd Phillips employs a 1970’s soundtrack and uses freeze frames like a young film student who has just seen Goodfellas for the first time, and the whole thing plays like a warmed-over version of the film that brought Jonah Hill his second Academy Award nomination, The Wolf of Wall Street.
An interesting real life story doesn’t always make for a compelling film. I found it impossible to become invested in these horrible people who make one bad decision after another. A better title might have been War Bros.