War Dogs

War Dogs

In Theatres: 
Aug 19, 2016
Running Time: 
114 minutes

Based on the true story of how two very average, twenty something, stoner civilians from Florida became millionaire gunrunners during the Iraq war, War Dogs is an incredible example of what happens when nearly non-existent government regulation and the unstoppable ego of mediocre white men combine. David Packouz (Miles Teller), is aggressively bland and rudderless and his childhood friend, Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill ), an opportunist and possibly a sociopath, reunite during a funeral 2005 Miami, FL. 

David is on the downswing from making several bad decisions when Efraim tells him about his arms dealing enterprise. Thanks to the government giving away contracts that should have been up for bid, it is now mandated that all contracts have to be publicly posted to allow fair bidding. Efraim realizes there’s money to be made on the crumbs of the small contracts. At first, David objects, stating he’s opposed to the war’s existence, however, his morals are quickly shunted aside when Efraim shows him the dollar signs. With very little arm twisting and a very big capitalist hard on, David joins him.

What follows is a two and half hour attempt to make both of these characters (David lies to his family and Efraim shamelessly manipulates him) likable.  Rock and Rap music lace scenes of the two making deals, smoking weed and doing lines as they high-five their successes. We join the duo on a car chase from combatants in Iraq that is triumphantly ended by the U.S. Army. We see them break laws, bribe, and use children as translators. All of which is framed to make us sympathetic to their endeavors. However, no matter how many golden AK-47 lamps you stick in one shot, the film never quite escapes the fact that this is war. The more glib the tone, the more the stark reality of the situation beings to weigh on you. The numbers of bullets, guns, grenades, joyfully ordered start to tug at you. Not even Jonah Hill’s deft skill at playing a charming pustule of a person can make you forget how it feels.

The end, when it does come after 150 minutes, is almost predictable. They get caught because they ignored and manipulated someone they thought they were getting over on. And when the details of their punishments were revealed, the audience gasped in disbelief at how, after lying to the U.S. government and U.S. Army during wartime, Diveroli served four years and Packouz served seven months house arrest.  In a time where citizens are being killed just for being legal gun owners, the lightness of their sentences lands like a rock to the chest. While you may be able to swallow what these two do in a practical, matter-of-fact senese, War Dogs wants you to celebrate them as underdogs until the very end.

Maria Jackson
Review by Maria Jackson
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