“War Dogs” tells the incredible true story of two ambitious twentysomething junior high buddies who make mega bucks by selling arms to the U.S. government. It’s a dark, troubling story, a tale of immeasurable greed and corruption that will make you angry while at the same time make you cheer.
I give huge credit to director Todd Phillips for making this material tremendously entertaining. There’s no new stylistic ground explored in terms of filmmaking (it’s a little lazy to rely so much on voiceover narration and the jarring, unnecessary use of snippets from popular rock songs), but Phillips’ snarky, sarcastic directing style perfectly fits the subject matter as well as the arrogant real-life personalities of his lead actors.
In the early 2000s, Efraim (Jonah Hill) and David (Miles Teller) go into business together with plans to make money off the Iraq war by bidding on lucrative government military contracts. After they land a multi-million dollar deal to supply thousands of rounds of bullets to Afghan forces, the pair find themselves in business with some very, very shady people. That this film is based on real events is absolutely incredible.
Newly rich and flush with cash, the guys spend their payday by acquiring fancy penthouse apartments, entertaining high dollar hookers, and consuming massive amounts of drugs. Some scenes tend to glamorize the arms business but as soon as you start to think “hey, I could do that,” a gun wielding encounter with a scumbag on the terrorist watch list and a tense, near-death ride through Iraq’s “triangle of death” quickly quashes those delusions.
There’s an incomparable chemistry between the two leads, a pair of actors who are just plain unlikable on their own but when paired together are pitch perfect. It’s actually fun to watch them do exceedingly stupid stuff, casually observing from a distance as their greed and relaxed moral compass inevitably brings their eventual downfall. These two young actors are at the top of their game in this film (it’s not easy to create their own versions of semi-deplorable characters that audiences still want to root for). It’s simple to see that they had a blast chewing on these roles, and I had a blast watching them.
“War Dogs” doesn’t attempt to make some bold, profound statement on society’s obsession with guns, wars and money; instead it delivers a highly entertaining, genuinely compelling, completely engaging look at the lengths some people will go in order to live their own distorted version of the American dream.
Efraim (Jonah Hill) and David (Miles Teller) are two twenty-something guys who become international arms dealers equipped only with a couple of computers and a encyclopedic knowledge of the weapons of war.
They say truth can be stranger than fiction. We’re told that “War Dogs” is based on a true story, and what a story it is. Reminiscent of “Boiler Room” and “The Wolf of Wall Street,” it’s a tale of and for our times: the never-ending quest to get very rich, very quickly doesn’t exist only in the world of finance and Bernie Madoff. These guys figured out how to exploit loopholes in the bid process for government contracts, which incredibly anyone with a small business could compete for. That’s right, anyone. If you could find a source for a million rounds of ammunition and 1000 handguns, you too could have bid to fill one of the thousands of contracts that were open for bidding in the mid-2000s.
Although neither Efraim nor David are particularly likeable, it’s hard not to admire them and their ingenuity. Hill and Teller were made for these roles: both equally cocky and off-putting, they are perfectly suited to play two arrogant, reckless, and uneducated guys that figured out how to game the system created by Dick Cheney’s America. Bradley Cooper is entertaining as shady arms dealer Henry Girard and Ana de Armas turns in a solid performance as David’s wife, Iz, who is perhaps the only sympathetic character in the film.
While noticeably different from director Todd Phillips’s (“Old School”, “The Hangover”, “Due Date”) usual fare, in his hands this material works. The real story is so outrageous that he doesn’t need to make it any more so: the comedy that we do get is organic, not forced. At just under two hours, it’s paced well and the writing is good, occasionally great.
A decidedly adult dramatic comedy for our times, “War Dogs” is worth a watch.