Based on the Rolling Stone Magazine article titled “The Stoner Arms Dealers: How Two American Kids Became Big-Time Weapons Traders,” the newly released film “War Dogs,” starring Jonah Hill and Miles Teller, tells the real life story of two young men and a very, very twisted American dream.
Taking place during the war in Iraq, “War Dogs” follows the story of Efraim Diveroli (Hill) and David Packouz (Teller) in their quest to find fortune by becoming international arms dealers.
In the beginning, as a couple of stoners in their twenties, making a couple hundred thousand dollars was enough to satisfy their hunger for money. Enjoying their brand new apartments and sports cars, they were living a different lifestyle, that’s for sure. But even though they were making enough money to completely alter their ways of life, the deals they were making that supplied them with the money were fairly small in the big picture. Diveroli even referred to the deals as crumbs, while reassuring Packouz that crumbs were all they needed to get rich quick.
That was until Diveroli and Packouz, through a series of events that seem to be based purely in luck, bid on the infamous “Afghan Deal,” a 300 million dollar Pentagon contract, and won.
Diveroli and Packouz entered a whole new world of international arms dealing that they never even new existed. When that much money is at stake, you can only assume that some very questionable people will get involved and that some extremely illegal things will happen. You would be assuming right, and that is what the bulk of “War Dogs” is about. It details all of the twists and turns that Diveroli and Packouz go through as they take on the seemingly impossible task of supplying U.S forces in Afghanistan with 100 million rounds of AK-74 ammunition.
The filmmakers of “War Dogs” really succeeded in their casting of Hill and Teller as the lead roles. It was refreshing to watch Hill, who most of us first saw in the teenage comedy “Super Bad,” consistently take on more mature acting roles. Coming in a close second to his portrayal of Donnie Azoff in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” this was one of Hill’s best performances. He portrayed Diveroli as a careless, money craving jerk that wasn’t really a careless, money craving jerk, but who was trying to be one. It is a pretty complex role, and Hill nailed every scene.
But even more enjoyable was Hill’s on screen chemistry with Teller. These two actors were the perfect duo for this movie. Hill played the no nonsense guy who wants to do illegal things, while Teller played the nice guy that will occasionally do illegal things. The contrast was perfect, and the bromance was definitely evident. Maybe Hill and Teller will become the next Rogan and Franco.
The filmmakers of “War Dogs” were also successful in providing a good balance of humor and drama. Obviously, the movie is about gun running, so it’s not going to be funny the entire time. But director Todd Phillips (Hangover Trilogy, Road Trip), knew exactly when it was appropriate to add humor and when it was not. This made for a well-rounded film that will appeal to most moviegoers.
But by far my favorite things about “War Dogs” were the political and social messages that were sprinkled throughout the film. By no means was it a film completely centered around making these statements, but the ones that do exist in the film are poignant and quite blunt.
“War Dogs” spares the audience the painfully over-enforced message that “war is bad” and instead takes on the unsettlingly true angle of “war is economy.” This statement is made very clear in the first three minutes of the movie when Teller’s character points out that it costs $17,500 just to clothe and arm one U.S. soldier. This message reoccurs throughout the entire film and becomes increasingly more powerful. “War Dogs” as a whole is basically a behind the scenes look into arms dealing industry.
“War Dogs” also makes stabs at the Bush administration. In one particularly exciting scene, Hill’s character yells “God bless Dick Chaney’s America” while driving through the Triangle of Death in Iraq, insinuating that the lack of government oversight allowed two people like Diveroli and Packouz to get away with what they did and to profit as much as they did.
Although I really enjoyed “War Dogs” and will probably watch it again, I do have one complaint. On more than one occasion, I felt like I had already seen the movie, which was likely due to the fact that most of the memorable moments were also featured in the trailer. This is a pet peeve of mine, so I was especially upset to learn that there weren’t very many surprises in the movie itself. But this shouldn’t discourage you from seeing “War Dogs.” Just know that if you need to leave the theater during the movie, you probably won’t miss anything too major.
Final Score: 8/10
While “War Dogs” wasn’t the best movie I’ve seen this year, it’s definitely in the top five. It won’t completely blow you away with its cinematic genius, but it will make you laugh at things you probably shouldn’t, it will make you question the ability of our government officials and it will most definitely make you ask yourself, “How is this a true story?” But it is a true story, and that’s what is so wonderful about “War Dogs.”