Larky comedy War Dogs tells the outrageous but true tale of the twentysomething duo who became arms dealers at the height of the Iraq War.
How could a pair of bong-addled stoners in their early 20s transform themselves into swaggering gunrunners at the height of the Iraq War?
More preposterous still, how could they land a $300 million deal with the Pentagon to supply the entire Afghan army with weaponry, including more than 100 million rounds of AK-47 ammo?
This outrageous but true tale forms the basis of dark comedy War Dogs, whose gobsmacking revelations will have you seesawing between tears of laughter, incredulity and rage.
“Iraq’s Triangle of Death”
Jonah Hill and Miles Teller play the duo, Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz, former best friends in junior high whose post-school reunion in Miami Beach gave them the chance to take advantage of a lucrative loophole in US military procurement that opened up Pentagon contracts to small businesses: FedBizOpps (short for Federal Business Operations).
Co-writer and director Todd Phillips (The Hangover films) has rollicking fun with what ensues. He does, admittedly, play fast and loose with the facts. First chronicled by Rolling Stone writer Guy Lawson in his 2011 article ‘Arms and the Dudes’, the duo’s exploits here have been considerably embroidered. On screen, they include a reckless dash across Iraq’s ‘Triangle of Death’ and an even more perilous encounter with Albanian gangsters after getting on the wrong side of a suavely menacing international arms dealer played by Bradley Cooper.
“More awed than appalled”
Unsurprisingly, given the film’s pell-mell pace, Hill and Teller’s characters are very broadly sketched. Hill’s Diveroli comes across as a manipulative slimeball while Teller’s naively trusting Packouz is more sinned against than sinning. Even so, the impression remains that Phillips is more awed than appalled by his heroes’ deeds.
War Dogs does land some glancing satirical blows on the cronyism and corruption surrounding the Iraq War (the Bush administration only initiated FedBizOpps after taking flak for awarding huge no-bid contracts to the likes of Halliburton and Lockheed Martin). Yet there’s a definite sense of punches being pulled. Ultimately, War Dogs is far more interested in revelling in the boys’ larky hijinks than in skewering war profiteering and the international arms trade.
Certificate 15. Runtime 114 mins. Director Todd Phillips