War Dogs follows the story of David Packouz (Miles Teller) and Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill), middle school best friends who end up creating a multimillion dollar arms company, eventually landing a $300 million contract with the Pentagon. The story is told episodically, and largely from the perspective of Packouz, following his journey from Miami massage therapist, to international arms dealer, to the target of an FBI and State Department Investigation. Packouz is portrayed in a somewhat more sympathetic light, as he is shown to be a struggling young man looking for good money to provide for his pregnant girlfriend. He is quickly seduced by the easy money and sociopathic charms of Diveroli, whose only principle is maximizing profit, morals and international law be damned.
Jonah Hill is masterful as Diveroli, who is all snake oil and devilish charm, able to act like an orthodox Jew in one moment, and frat boy in another. The film portrays Diveroli as a borderline sociopath who is able to put on different acts depending on who he is talking to, swinging from sweet to vicious in an instant, and cares only about himself. Hill clearly drew some inspirations for the cocaine snorting, wild child Diveroli from his run as Donnie Azoff in The Wolf of Wall Street. The entire movie feels like a bit of a riff off that film, but with less nudity, less swearing and way more guns.
What really took me by surprise was the top notch comedy in this film. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have been surprised since Jonah Hill is probably one of the best comedic actors of this decade. I found myself laughing at almost every other scene. The film deftly dances between dark and comedic, capturing the gravity of the post 9/11 arms trade and the ridiculous antics of Diveroli. Miles Teller plays a great straight man, and perfectly capturing Packouz’s realization that his partner is quite unstable. War Dogs is exceptional because it simply clicks. It isn’t a condescending story about the dangers of war profiteering: it takes you on the wild ride Packouz and Diveroli went on, nearly touching the sun before falling flaming into the sea. It is a rare film that can create a political movie about the excesses of the Bush era Pentagon with rousing humor and drama.
(Basically go to the nearest theater playing this movie and throw some cash at the ticket guy)