You could be mistaken for thinking War Dogs is a straight-forward comedy, especially with the man behind the Hangover trilogy, Todd Philips, behind the project. But despite containing much dark comedy, War Dogs’ subject matter is indeed a serious one in the grand scheme of things.
The movie is based on the Rolling Stone article, “Arms and the Dudes” about two twenty-something year old stoner buddies from high school, who during the early 2000s (the Bush era) reunite and become basic arms dealers. We discover early on in the movie that war was a big business with numerous amounts of small businesses getting involved in private arms dealings.
David Packouz (Miles Teller) is the slightly reluctant half to the partnership – anti-war in fact – but unfulfilled by his job of a massage therapist and in need of money, he is swayed by the huge figures potentially on offer.
Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill) is the loud mouth businessman who is always wanting more and willing to do whatever it takes to get it. Hill plays the role of the obnoxious, drug user well – reminiscent of his part in Wolf of Wall Street.
We watch the pair build their company, AEY, from one glazy bedroom into a slick Miami office as the pair pull off one deal after another, using dodgy tactics and deals, all along the way making an absolute fortune.
There is certainly a Scorsese feel to the movie, perhaps lacking that definitive dark edge, but it is pacey, visually interesting and carries a humourous element throughout, despite its subject matter. Teller’s narration, a logical soundtrack and occasional inter-titles also all point towards a Scorsese product.
Like many of Scorsese’s films, War Dogs is heavily male dominated, with only Packouz’s morally fretful girlfriend, Iz, providing any female representation. This is almost spelt out when fellow arms dealer, Henry Girard (Bradley Cooper) claims, “this is why I like the arms business – no women”.
War actually plays a little role in War Dogs, but we get a full understanding of how war can purely be about business and how people get rich from such a devastating topic. Philips does a good job of balancing serious subject matter with his typically crass humour, with the movie and its story certainly leaving a lasting impression.