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Dan's Review: Should we be laughing at "War Dogs?"

Aug 19, 2016 01:32AM ● Published by Dan Metcalf

Jonah Hill and Miles Teller in War Dogs - © 2016 – Warner Bros.

War Dogs (Warner Bros.)

Rated R for language throughout, drug use and some sexual references.

Starring Jonah Hill, Miles Teller, Ana de Armas, J. B. Blanc, Bradley Cooper, Barry Livingston, Bryan Chesters.

Written by Stephen Chin, Todd Phillips and Jason Smilovic, based on a Rolling Stone article by Guy Lawson.

Directed by Todd Phillips.

GRADE: B

REVIEW:

Oh, that zany War on Terror. It was only a matter of time before the feature film industry progressed (regressed?) from shameful tales of war as “Hell” into irreverent comedies about Afghanistan and Iraq. Who better to usher in this new era of war humor than the guy who brought us the Hangover trilogy, Mr. Todd Phillips? Mr. Phillips’ new venture is War Dogs, a film (loosely) based on the true story of Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz, two stoners who turned the War on Terror into a hedonist dream.

The story is told from the perspective of Packouz (Miles Teller), a Miami-based massage therapist who’s trying to break into the bed sheet sales market, with little success. Complicating matters is his pregnant girlfriend Iz (Ana de Armas).  Things change when his old Jr. high buddy Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill) comes back to town after a leaving his family’s firearms business in California. Efraim’s new venture involves seeking military contracts now available to all bidders (instead being exclusive to large corporate defense contractors). David joins Efraim’s small company, AEY, Inc. and they begins to search their fortune. One very lucrative contract involves getting Italian handguns to Baghdad, but when the shipment is help up by the Syrian government, the duo must travel to the Middle East and drive the weapons through the war zone for delivery or they lose the contract. Through a set of mishaps, the men somehow survive and business takes off. Working with a shadowy international gunrunner named Henry (Bradley Cooper), the AEY guys score a huge contact worth $300 million to supply AK-47 ammo to the Afghan security forces. Things go just fine until Efraim crosses Henry and their supply in Albania turns out to be AK-47 shells manufactured in China (which they are not allowed to use for U.S. contracts). The deal unravels as greed and paranoia take over, and the Justice Dept. closes in on AEY’s illegal dealings.

War Dogs seems like a comedy; complete with all the stuff you’d see in other Todd Phillips raunchy films. Jonah Hill eats up most of the screen time as the mouthy, “ugly American” amoral war profiteer who likes to party. Teller plays the straight man to Hill’s antics and profanity-laden monologues. Yes, some of the dialogue and situations are funny in War Dogs, but you have to ask yourself if such things should be funny.

Some license was taken in the retelling of the AEY story, including the aforementioned gun run through Iraq (which never happened), and the alteration of characters like Henry (the film also omits a Utah gun manufacturer from the narrative). Movies often take creative license with the facts, but War Dogs seems to go a little further, while making a few adolescent war profiteers look like a couple of dudes on a weekend bender in Vegas.  I’m not sure there’s a real message here except perhaps that crime pays unless you get caught, so party while you can.

War Dogs Trailer

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