In 2007, two young men in their 20s who have been friends since school, David Packouz (Miles Teller) and Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill), unexpectedly win a $300 million contract from the Pentagon to arm America's allies in Afghanistan. (Based on a true story.)
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The synopsis above doesn't do the full story justice - it doesn't include the myriad details that make this story totally implausible - except that it's true. We know it's true because of the criminal trials that followed, where the details were made public.
Although the film avoids glorifying David Packouz (Miles Teller) and Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill), we start with the expectation that this is a David v Goliath story (pardon the pun). It's more like Dumb & Dumber, though, and it's not just these two guys who qualify for the title roles; the US Department of Defense is also in the frame. In time we realize that Diveroli is an unpleasant, unscrupulous, morally bankrupt, foul mouthed manipulator. And then there are his negative attributes ...
David is seduced by the promise of money, given his wife is pregnant and massage is a lousy business. He has no idea what he is in for.
Story aside, what works for the audience is the contrast between Diveroli, the brash, bulldog of a man, an operator, and his friend, the mild mannered David, who does massage for a living. Until they reconnect ...
Whether these characterisations are accurate is beside the point for the filmgoer; historians can record the details. The storytelling is astute and clear, showing us the development of the small arms dealing business and the boys' relationship as go-getters. The style is autobiographical in that David narrates the story over the action and economically fills us in on details. This device also helps to make the film more personal, giving it an 'as told by' quality.
Performances are excellent and technically, the film is highly effective and engaging, making good use of the bizarre elements, the sheer magnitude of the scheme and the exotic (if dour) locations in Albania and Iraq. There are also some rather more colorful scenes inside bars and splashy hotels in Las Vegas.
Despite the film's breezy approach, it reveals the darker sides of the story, from the manner of arms deals and how they are the backbone of war, to the personal cost in terms of principle and morality.
Trivia: The real David Packouz plays the unnamed singer in a brief scene at an aged care facility.
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WAR DOGS (M)
CAST: Miles Teller, Jonah Hill, Bradley Cooper, Ana de Armas, Shaun Toub, Barry Livingston, Brenda Koo, Dan Bilzerian
NARRATION: Miles Teller
PRODUCER: Scott Budnick, Bradley Cooper, Mark Gordon, Todd Phillips, Bryan Zuriff
DIRECTOR: Todd Phillips
SCRIPT: Todd Phillips, Stephen Chin, Jason Smilovic (Rolling Stone article by Guy Lawson)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Lawrence Sher
EDITOR: Jeff Groth
MUSIC: Cliff Martinez
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Bill Brzeski
RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 18, 2016