Miles Teller and Jonah Hill in War Dogs
Published: 27 August, 2016
by DAN CARRIER
Directed by Todd Phillips
4 Stars out of 5
CAN there be anything quite as low in the grand scheme of things as arms dealers? Is there anything quite as reprehensible as someone who actually makes a living from trading in machines specifically used to kill people?
As a starting point, it seems amazing that you could make a comedy based on a true story regarding the antics of two small-time arms dealers, who, due to the decade-and-a-half of global war we have witnessed since 9/11, began raking it in.
We are introduced to the back-story through a series of facts about the high cost of war: in the 2003 Iraq war, the individual kit for every soldier serving in the US Army cost a little under $20k. That is just the start – the figures spent on the war are almost beyond comprehension.
And when the US Army began buying the equipment they needed, they went to the major defence contractors. The problem was this: firms like Halliburton and Lockheed Martin were seen to have close links with those on Capitol Hill, such as Dick Cheney.
So George Dubya brought in an act that meant the government had to offer to source their equipment from a wide range of places. This allowed small-time businesses to carve deals – and this is the background to this comedy.
Miami-based firm AEY is an arms dealership set up by Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill) and he ropes his childhood friend David Packouz (Miles Teller) in to help out.
David has been giving therapy massages to old men in Florida to earn a living, while his idea of selling high-quality cotton sheets to old people’s homes has cleaned out his savings.
So the chance to head to Albania, buy 100 million bullets for AK-47s, and then ship them to Afghanistan seems, somehow, like a good idea.
War Dogs is both funny and thoughtful – it is enough to make you stomp out of the screening and sign up to the group Campaign Against Arms Trade, in the same way the Vegetarian Society benefited from Babe.
This is in no small part to the leads. Teller is pitch perfect. Hill is rapidly being typecast – this is a reprise of his Wolf of Wall Street role, and it seems unlikely we will see him play a character that doesn’t like smoking cannabis and drinking beer any time soon. But this is a good thing. He is ace as Hollywood’s go-to stoner.