Based on an article in Rolling Stone magazine and a subsequent book, War Dogs heavily dramatises the true story of two enterprising twentysomethings, who became multi-millionaires as arms dealers to the US military.
Director Todd Phillips, mastermind of The Hangover films, and co-writer Jason Smilovic don’t let the truth get in the way of spinning an entertaining yarn.
They embellish the jaw-dropping rags-to-riches narrative with a hare-brained chase through the notorious Triangle of Death to the south of Baghdad, and some fizzing one-liners, which are used as chapter headings to bookmark each stage of the journey.
Miles Teller and Jonah Hill, who garnered numerous awards for their eye-catching work in Whiplash and The Wolf Of Wall Street respectively, are an incendiary double-act.
They clamber over various obstacles thrown in their characters’ paths and brazenly wisecrack in the face of death.
Phillips’ film opens with TV news footage from the war in Iraq in 2008.
‘I see 17,000 dollars,’ explains massage therapist David Packouz (Teller). ‘That’s what it costs to outfit an American soldier.’
Narrating his own extraordinary story, David introduces us to his wife Iz (Ana de Armas), with whom he hopes to raise a family by selling bed sheets to local care homes.
His get-rich-quick scheme flops and David is reluctant to tell his spouse that the boxes of bedding cluttering up their apartment are not their golden ticket to a brighter future.
At this low ebb, David meets his friend Efraim Diveroli (Hill), who has discovered a website which lists contracts that the US military needs to be fulfilled.
‘When life kicked me, I stayed down. But Efraim? He kicked back,’ gushes David, who agrees to become a partner in this shadowy yet highly lucrative business.
The buddies tender for a massive munitions contract with the help of infamous dealer Henry Girard (Bradley Cooper) and underbid by 53 million dollars.
David travels to Albania to fulfil the contract, aided by his driver Bashkim (JB Blanc), who knows which palms to grease.
When David questions the morality of the business, which he keeps secret from Iz, Efraim immediately hits back.
‘This isn’t about being pro-war,’ he counsels David. ‘It’s about being pro-money.’
Bolstered by strong performances from the two leads, War Dogs is an engrossing and frequently uproarious comedy of errors.
Phillips and Smilovic’s script short changes the supporting characters: Iz exists solely to prick David’s conscience with her fleeting words of wisdom.
However, they do they craft some big laughs like when the buddies visit a weapons expo in Las Vegas and David pithily describes the event as ‘Comic-Con with grenades’.
War – what is it good for?
It’s very good for lining the pockets of the greedy and the enterprising.