August 29, 2016
David Packouz is a down-and-out massage therapist living in Miami who just lost all of his money on a bad investment. He was at his wit's end when he found out that his girlfriend Iz is pregnant. So when his childhood friend Efraim Diveroli comes back to town to set up his business, the desperate David was easily convinced to be his partner.
Efraim was a War Dog, an arms-dealing businessman who made money off of war without ever stepping foot on the battlefield. Their company AEY goes swimmingly at first, getting small-time arms contracts no one else was bidding on. However, when they land a bigtime $300M contract to supply the Afghan army with 100M rounds of ammunition, they ran smack into a wall that sent them and their business reeling.
Miles Teller was a good choice for David because of the vulnerability in his face that makes the audience root for him. This actor had been acclaimed for his acting in films like "The Spectacular Now" and "Whiplash", and you can see why here (though, he won't be expecting acting nominations for his turn here). He seemed very comfortable in these roles and was convincing in both the drama and action parts.
As with his other films, Jonah Hill is the life of this film with his over-the-top portrayal of Ephaim. It seems that Hill is already shoehorned into these kinds of over-confident, sweet-talking, drug-sniffing characters like Efraim. This performance here was reminiscent of his turns in "21 Jump Street" and "The Wolf of Wall Street." His role as Efraim was darker than his usual, reminding me of a young Joe Pesci.
I was surprised to see Bradley Cooper in a small but critical role as Henri Girard, a ruthless veteran arms dealer that David and Efraim had to contact to supply their ammo. Ana de Armas was nothing more than a very pretty distraction in her role as Iz, David's girlfriend.
For me, the best part of the film was that sequence when the David and Ef had to personally deliver arms from Jordan to a US base in Baghdad. I liked the way director Todd Phillips retold this adventure with humor and tension. (Ironically though, this event never really happened for real.) On the debit side, there was a crucial development in Efraim's character in the end which seemingly came from out of nowhere, thus negatively affecting the execution of the third act and how the film ended.
All clues seemed to indicate that this film was going to be a riotous comedy -- the frenetic trailer, the poster with a reference to the "Hangover" trilogy, the casting of Jonah Hill, etc. However upon watching, it turned out that this was not exactly a comedy, but a crime drama with some funny scenes to liven it up (and these were probably all in the trailer already). "War Dogs" is not a bad film, an interesting look behind the war armaments trade in the US. Just do not expect another "Hangover" or "Jump Street"-like raunch fest. 6/10.