War Dogs is a wild dark comedy on Netflix. It is based on an article in Rolling Stone magazine, that later became the book Arms and Dudes by Guy Lawson. This disturbingly true story tells how some young stoners in Miami manage to find a way into pitching for arms deals with the American government.
At the peak of the Iraq war questions were being raised on the huge contracts that were being placed with Halliburton and Dick Cheney's close connection with the company. To demonstrate a level playing field, the military put contracts for supplies out to tender. The contracts for the military could be found on a public website for anyone to pitch for. Enter Efraim Diveroli, played by Jonah Hill from Maniac (review here) and David Packouz (Miles Teller) to seize their opportunity. Initially they pitched for the smaller contracts. But they set their sights on the bigger deals and find themselves deeper than they can handle.
Todd Phillips directed this movie. He has had great success with outlandish comedies that have a classic bro's getting into trouble theme. But War Dogs has a serious political story to tell at the same time. Unfortunately, I am not quite sure he manages to get the balance right in this film. He leaps from wild scenes that could be straight out of The Hangover to confronting detailed ethical questions. It's a difficult mix and one that is too disturbing to pick up any real laugh out loud moments.
However, this is still an enjoyable film to watch. That's mainly because of the brilliant performances from the cast. Two-time Oscar nominee Jonah Hill really saves this movie. His manic performance is amazing on screen. He plays a repulsive drug-fuelled character who has no morals what so ever. He will do anything to close a deal to get what he wants. Miles Teller works well with Hill in a suitable double act. There are clear differences between the characters and they do manage to bring across some laughs from a difficult script. Bradley Cooper is a surprise, playing a sleazing arms dealer who is on the government's terrorist list.
This is a thoroughly watchable movie. It has a powerful story to tell and manages to get that across but seems to get a little lost in direction along the way. It just lacks any style of its own. It's more like a bundle of successful formulas bolted together but never seem to compliment each other in a workable way. However, the brilliant performances from Jonah Hill and Miles Teller are enough to save it. It definitely tries to copy the formula of The Wolf of Wall Street, even Hill's performance is very similar to that film, so if you are a fan of that I would recommend War Dogs.