It is a singular film that manages to turn expectations upside down and fewer still that leave you cringing inside “War Dogs” manages to do it with wit and intelligence. The film is based on true events surrounding two men in their 20s who managed to build up an arms-dealing enterprise and secure a multi-million-dollar contract with the Pentagon. This was during the recent war in Iraq when Bush was president.
The film stars Miles Teller as David Packouz and Johan Hill (a two-time Oscar nominee) as Efraim Diveroli. The childhood friends reconnect after some years apart. Teller’s character works unglamorously as a massage therapist in Miami Beach. When Efraim returns, he is glitzed out with money, fine clothes, and accessories.
Meanwhile, David’s entrepreneurial plans to sell high-quality bedsheets to retirement homes fails and he learns that his live-in girlfriend is pregnant. Feeling boxed in he takes up Efraim’s offer to partner in his start-up weapons contracting business called AEY—which apparently stands for nothing. It just sounds official. The gig is something his girlfriend would not approve of, so he keeps it a secret for as long as he can. Instead, he tells her that he and Efraim are selling bedsheets to the U.S. government.
Efraim teaches David everything he knows about arms dealing, which he allegedly did with his uncle in California. The U.S. government has a website where anyone can look at the contracts up for bid. Anyone can make a bid. The key to AEY’s initial success is buying up the smaller contracts. Within a few months, the men are making hundreds of thousands of dollars. Shortly after, the deal runs into some problems and leads them to running a shipment of guns through the “Triangle of Death” in Iraq and into a U.S. base.
Soon the men are flying high on success. AEY grows in both money and reputation. Before too long they manage to land a huge U.S. contract deal, only to have it fail in the most ironic of ways.
“We forgot to pay the box guy,” David recounts at the end of the film.
An FBI investigation uncovers some dirty truths that land David and Efraim into what you would think would be serious jail time and fines. Yet the final twist, which is apparently true, they got let off incredibly easy, with David getting house arrest, and Efraim only a short jail sentence.
“War Dogs” covers a subject that is distasteful: the huge money-making machine behind a war. It points out the flaws in what people think are patriotism and heroism. It also highlights just how much war costs the American taxpayer. (Warning: it’s an obscene amount of money). The movie shows arms dealing is a business that just manages to stay on the right side of the law—usually.
However, the genius behind the film is not the gritty facts but the humor.
You can’t help but laugh at high tension scenes like the chase through the Triangle of Death. Hill is hilarious and has some of the best lines in the film like, “God Bless Cheney’s America!” As cringe-worthy a line as that is, you can’t help but laugh. But the comedy shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Directed by Todd Phillips who is better known for the “Hangover” films, “War Dogs” expertly plies humor and action so that you get caught up in the high of selling weapons. What looks like another “dumb bromance” movie turns out to be something far wittier and darker than what the trailer suggests. It also manages to tear at the fabric between what we sort of know is out there and what is really there. War is dirty. But what’s worse is the seemingly weak judicial system that should prevent men like David and Efraim from getting away with the crimes they committed. Yet, in the end, they only got a slap on the wrist. And if they wanted to, by 2027 AEY could start selling weapons again.
“War Dogs” is a film that will surprise and maybe even disgust you, but it’s absolutely worth seeing.
– Mesa resident Kaely Monahan is producer of Popcorn Fan Film Reviews.