October 24, 2016

Movie Monday: War Dogs

War Dogs If asked to guess what the director of the Hangover trilogy's follow-up project would be, I wouldn't have guessed it would be a political satire about war profiteers and the way the US government enables them.

Miles Teller stars as David Packouz, a masseuse who is drawn to the glamorous life of arms dealing by his childhood friend Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill). The story of War Dogs is based on the Rolling Stone article "The Stoner Arms Dealers" by Guy Lawson and is generally more friendly to David than Efraim. Efraim is portrayed as a sociopath with a hilariously fake, creepy giggle. (Hill's giggle made my theater laugh every time.)

It's a fascinating story, and enough to carry much of the movie. The US government outsourced many contracts for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, giving small outlets a chance to make big money, including two twentysomethings who didn't know anything. To underbid genuine contractors, all they had to do was make shady deals with people the government couldn't work with directly.

Todd Phillips does a great job pointing out how outrageous it is, including the fact that the real Packouz and Diveroli will soon be eligible to sale arms again. At the same time, he's clearly very impressed with two dudes who managed to make a ton of money (unethically).

Teller and Hill do great work, as usual, and Bradley Cooper is strong in a small role as a real-deal arms dealer. I was impressed by Ana de Armas as Iz, David's wife. She gets the role of the nag who harshes David's buzz, but Armas does a great job of selling her vulnerability. She's a woman with a kid to protect, who wants to know that she can trust her husband far more than she wants a fancy apartment.

Phillips injects a great deal of flashy style into the proceedings, keeping the movie rolling along even when there's exposition about just how arms deals work. He even goes for an arty ambiguous ending. War Dogs is a fun movie most of the time, but it is also a sobering one.

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