War Dogs joins the ranks of ‘good but ultimately forgettable’ movies of the summer. Based on a true story, the film stars Jonah Hill and Miles Teller as Ephraim Divoroli and David Packouz, a pair of twenty-something Miami dudes who exploited a little-known government initiative that allows small businesses to bid on federal contracts. The initiative was meant to restore some balance to the fundamentally flawed defense-contractor universe after the Cheney-Halliburton debacle, but instead it opened the door for chumps like Packouz and Divoroli to exploit the system and rake in millions of your tax dollars during the Iraq War.
The guys get in way over their heads when they ‘lowball’ the DOD and land a $300 million dollar deal to arm the Afghan military. Initially, they’re not doing anything technically illegal, but they end up having to do business with some shady folks in some shady places. Bradley Cooper shows up mid-way through the movie as an international arms dealer who can’t do business directly with the U.S. because he’s on the ‘watch list’ but finds willing middle-men in Ephraim and David. What happens next puts their lives at risk and tests their friendship and business partnership.
Jonah Hill dominates the screen with all the best lines, while Teller (Whiplash) is left to play straight-man to Hill’s smarmy persona. Both do a fine job but the movie never quite finds the right balance of comedy and crime drama. Spoiler alert: the funniest stuff is all in the trailer. As recent war movie dramedies go, I liked War Dogs better than Tina Fey’s Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot. But not by much.