War Dogs is based on the true story of David Packouz and Efraim Diveroli, two men in their early 20s living in Miami trying to make a living. After meeting up after not seeing each other since High School, they work out they can bid into a lesser known government initiative that means, quite literally, they can supply weapons to U.S. military contracts. Although it all starts small, their dedication leads to bigger opportunities which results in million-dollar returns and a whole different world they’d never anticipated.
Directed by Todd Phillips, who you’ll know best for The Hangover trilogy, this movie feels like an important change in focus for his style because although you might feel it’s being sold as something in that vicinity, it’s a lot smarter and bolder than you might initially give it credit. Inspired by the Rolling Stone article by Guy Lawson, titled ‘Arms and the Dudes’, War Dogs is a compelling story in the veins of The Wolf of Wall Street and even stylistically like David O Russell’s underrated Three Kings .
To begin we’re introduced to David Packouz, played by Miles Teller, who’s desperately trying to make ends meet and find any career just to survive and do better with his girlfriend Iz (Ana de Armas) but truth is, he’s finding it hard graft. Teller plays it likeable and honest, even when things get manic and their luck turns, and as the film progresses he never becomes something beyond the character we see at the start and that’s a vital ingredient as this specific narrative develops.
On the flip-side there’s Jonah Hill playing the role of Diveroli, who initially comes across as more edgy than Packouz but he’s supposed to be and the truth is… it’s his ‘brainchild’ weapons business we’re about to be completely involved in. Hill portraying it in this way isn’t just for show, he’s a complicated character with an obvious trait of self-believe alongside a worrying, and uncontrollable egotistical essence coupled with a hilarious laugh. Both characters definitely balance each other out, especially at the peak of big moments, but there’s no doubt they’re coming from different places.
War Dogs is all about the story and the sheer bewilderment in what they achieved in such a small amount of time, and on a huge scale. If you loved The Wolf of Wall Street then I don’t see why this wouldn’t be bang on that vibe and, oh, with a love of Scarface for quite a number of connections. Saying that, and despite all the drama elements, War Dogs is also a very funny, entertaining film as well which rarely lets up on the adventure alongside a smart soundtrack thanks to Cliff Martinez.
For me, it’s one of those classic examples of a film that’s been marketed differently to what you experience. Had this been a Scorsese film, where the parallels to the aforementioned The Wolf of Wall Street are undoubtedly drawn and should be lauded, the critics would have been all over it and I, for one, think it deserves a lot more credit than you’d expect.
Slick, smart, and surprising: War Dogs features fine performances from Miles Teller and Jonah Hill, in particularly impressive unlikable form, and definitely one to experience with an open mind.