Who knew being an arms dealer was so easy?
Miles Teller and Jonah Hill star as the unlikely duo who bite off much more than they can chew in an effort to supply the US military with guns and ammo.When you’re on your knees, in a foreign country, staring down the barrel of a gun, you’ve got to ask yourself - just how did I get here? And that’s exactly what David Packouz is thinking in the opening of War Dogs. Twenty something Packouz (Miles Teller) left school to work a number of different jobs and, despite once aspiring to be something great, now works as a professional masseuse for the rich in Miami Beach. Eager to bid farewell to oiling up his less than glamorous clients, Packouz doesn’t spend too much time deliberating over the proposition to work with his former best friend, Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill), who makes decent money bidding on small gun deals for the US military.At first a bit dubious about being an arms dealer, Packouz is quickly swayed by the spin Diveroli puts on his work and with the news that his girlfriend, Iz (Ana de Armas), is pregnant it all makes perfect sense. With a crash course on what to look for and how to secure the best small arms deals Packouz and Diveroli are bringing home the big bucks, all from the comfort and safety of their office under the business name of AEY. Securing deal after deal and making a name for themselves the duo end up landing a massive gun deal for the US government. But as with most stories of this kind, when greed gets the better of you there is only one way to go, and that is down.
Directed by Todd Phillips (The Hangover Trilogy, Old School, Due Date), War Dogs is based on the Rolling Stone article ‘Arms and the Dudes’ by Guy Lawson. Presented in chapters of sorts, it shows us, from Packouz’s perspective, the various stages of how he got in way over his head, blinded by his need to move from under dog to top dog. With moments of comedy, mainly from Hill, and a couple of near death experiences, the story is very much multi-layered. Packouz is trying to balance being the supportive boyfriend and father with being a good friend and business partner and trying to negotiate his way through the logistics of being an arms dealer. The film moves through various locations from Miami beach which is basked in glorious sunshine to the drab and dreary streets of Albania.
It’s evident to see the history of Phillips' comedy work within the two protagonists but primarily within Hill’s character. Diveroli is the slimy, cocky, thinks he’s the bee's knees type of guy. Obsessed with Scarface and desperately trying to base his life on that of Tony Montana - from the gun shaped lamps to the sunset beach wall paper in his office to his obsession with labels and designer goods. And just like Montana he refuses to let anything get in his way of squeezing as much cash out of any deal or benefactor. Hill is brilliant in this role and plays it with absolute believability. There are several moments throughout the film where you can almost see how his brain works and how despite being so calm, cool and collected on the surface, underneath he’s constantly manipulating every situation, and person for than matter, to his benefit, which is all cased in machismo bravado.
A well-paced and steady watch with just enough action to keep you hooked
Packouz on the other hand is almost the moral compass of the two, fully aware of what they’re doing and always trying to keep it on the up and up but who slowly ends up getting caught in the whirlwind that is Diveroli. Teller is also just as great as Hill in his role. Somewhat more sensitive to their situation and the risks involved in their business but conflicted with the responsibility that comes with being a new father. In smaller roles we have Bradley Cooper as the also slightly slimy and intense Henry Girard, Patrick St. Esprit as Captain Philip Santos and Kevin Pollak as Ralph Slutzky, owner of several dry cleaners and silent parter to Diveroli.
War Dogs is the unbelievable true story of two young, stoner guys who manage to become rich almost overnight delivering guns. It’s as funny as it is ridiculous. The ending is slightly anti-climatic but I suppose that’s to be expected from a film based on actual events. An entertaining watch that will have you questioning the loop holes that exist within American government and asking just how was this even possible?
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