'War Dogs' review: An existential comedy of terror

As for the performances, apart from the leading duo, the rest of the cast play their parts convincingly.

Published: 19th August 2016 10:27 PM  |   Last Updated: 20th August 2016 10:13 AM   |  A+A-

Film Review War Dogs_Mukh (1)

This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Jonah Hill, from left, Miles Teller and Bradley Cooper in a scene from, "War Dogs." (AP)

Film: War Dogs

Cast: Jonah Hill, Miles Teller, Ana de Armas, Kevin Pollak, J.B.Blanc, Bradley Cooper, Barry Livingston, Bryan Chesters

Director: Todd Phillips


From the maker of Hangover Trilogy, the film is replete with markers typical of his films. Coked up leads, briefcases of dollar bills, twenty somethings trying to make (big) money. The only difference is, that this time it is based on a true story.

Starring Jonah Hill (Efraim Diveroli) & Miles Teller (David Packouz), the latter starts off as a twenty-something massage therapist, who smokes pot in cars and tries to sell bedsheets to old age homes and meets his childhood best friend at a funeral. Diveroli is a shady businessman who recruits Teller into a gun-running operation, where they sold weapons to the US government.

Complete opposites, these two arms dealers are the “bottom feeders,” who make money off the war. The entire film is “a case study in all that is wrong with the governments procurement process.” While everything was quite shady, there was nothing illegal going on till they bid on a $300 million ammunition contract they really should have avoided.

Winning the contract required them to forge their entire accounting books, attending an audit meeting (when they were both were high as kites) and working with an arms dealer Henry Gigard, (Bradley Cooper) who happens to be on the country’s terrorist watch list.

The deal goes about as smoothly as you might expect when 68,520 crates of decades-old Chinese mutation is stored in an Albanian warehouse, needs to be repackaged and sold to the government. A fascinating journey throughout, War Dogs is a story of trust, greed and what happens when two men really refuse to see how horrible they are and take the whole thing a bit too far.

Efraim is at the centre of the film, often insisting that he’s all about trust and loyalty, right before betraying the person. He calls his company AEY (which stands for nothing) and walks through the film as a confident, sarcastic and blobby con-artist, and at one point even describes himself to an Iraqi as an “ugly American”, only claiming a stereotype that he fits perfectly.

The director wants us to take David at face value. To see him as a sweet guy who made a few mistakes, got in too deep but is just trying to get by, win the heart of his lady love Iz (Ana de Armas) who is a character you just end up feeling sorry for. Someone who has barely been given the chance to develop, she acts as a worried voice of conscience but is often overlooked.

Backed with a background score that will make you chuckle, the script is an existential comedy of terror. The entertaining political comedy with deeply set undertones of satire which are sometimes less impactful than they intended. With references to Scarface, Dick Cheney and a cameo by Dan Bilzerian, the film runs for about 114 minutes and is gripping— despite its lack of empathy.
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