WAR DOGS (director/writer: Todd Phillips; screenwriters: based on the Rolling Story by Guy Lawson/Jason Smilovic/Stephen Chin; cinematographer: Lawrence Sher; editor: Jeff Groth; music: Cliff Martinez; cast: Miles Teller (David Packouz), Jonah Hill (Efraim Diveroli), Ana de Armas (Iz), Kevin Pollak (Ralph Slutzky), J.B. Blanc (Bashkim), Alin Georgiou Popa (Packaging guy), Shaun Toub (Marlboro), Bradley Cooper (Henry Girard), Barry Livingston (Rock Island Bureaucrat), Bryan Chesters (FBI agent), Julio Sergi (Rosen); Runtime: 114; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Mark Gordon/Todd Phillips/Bradley Cooper; Warner Bros; 2016)
“Problem is after the laughs stop, it’s hard to care what happens to these immoral wise guy criminals.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This is an implausible but cynical true story (at least that’s the claim) based on the 2011 Rolling Stone story by Guy Lawson on the experience of two sleazy war profiteers who through illegal means rose from petty to major armament players during the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions. Todd Phillips (“The Hangover”/”Old School”) directs and co-writes it as a morality play comedy. But he’s unsure if he should glorify or vilify his two unpleasant opposite personality protagonists. Other co-writers are Stephen Chin and Jason Smilovic. Two twenty-something Miami junior high school classmates reunite in January of 2005, as the shameless brash gunrunner Ephraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill), a fan of the Scarface movie with Pacino, leaves LA to return to Miami and hang out again with the mild-mannered but dopey David Packouz (Miles Teller). David is married to the pregnant Iz (Ana de Armas), and has left being a masseuse to rich old men and now unsuccessfully tries to sell quality bed sheets to retirement homes. Seduced by greed, David is tempted to partner with the unscrupulous social misfit Ephraim in obtaining low-level government military weapon contracts. Their sordid business takes them to Iraq to deliver Berettas to American troops and in 2007 to a weapon storage center in dismal Albania to close a 300 million dollar deal. Meanwhile Ephraim cheats everyone, including the dry cleaner magnate (Kevin Pollak) on deals he sponsors for the nice Jewish boys. The venal Ephraim even double-crosses a renown terrorist arms dealer (Bradley Cooper) and watches the deal fall through. The boys finally get their comeuppance when they are ratted out by one of the Albanian gunrunners (Alin Georgiou Popa) they hire and stiff, and are arrested in Miami by the FBI. Problem is after the laughs stop, it’s hard to care what happens to these immoral wise guy criminals. But the performances are uniformally good and one can’t get enough hating on Bush and Cheney for their costly war folly.
REVIEWED ON 8/20/2016 GRADE: B-