War Dogs – 2016

Director Todd Phillips
Screenplay by Stephen Chin, Todd Phillips, Jason Smilovic
Starring Jonah Hill, Miles Teller, Ana de Armas, Bradley Cooper, Kevin Pollack

It’s hard to make a comedy about sensitive subjects. At some point, you’ve got to just go for it, with no apologies. When it comes for barging through sensitive subjects, Phillips is a good choice. The story of people swindling the powers that be in a time of war is old as war itself. Fortunately Phillips decided to forge ahead and treat the subject as a swindle of governments instead of some form of protest. Done right, people will be able to form their own opinions. This story will never be a flower in the barrel.

Teller and Hill are David Packouz and Efraim Diveroli, two high school friends who have nothing better going in their lives…so they start selling arms to the U.S. government for their wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Early in the war it was discovered that Cheney/Bush cornered the market on arms, and there was a fiat issued to start opening up the bidding process. Here is where Packouz and Diveroli come into the story.

If one is to assume it’s as easy as it shows Packouz and Diveroli are able to manipulate the system, it is surprising we didn’t have a gold rush of hucksters heading towards the Middle-East with contracts in hand. Honestly I would be surprised if there weren’t a bunch more that we never discovered.

The first half of the film is fun and somewhat thrilling, all the way to the point of the first trip to Albania. By the time things start breaking down, things move so fast that it’s hard to come to grips on exactly when the double crossings happened and why in the world anyone would go cheap on $100,000.

In all War Dogs is a funny and sad film. To imagine a Guildenstern and Rosencrantz existence in the midst of George Bush’s Hamlet with Dick Cheney playing Uncle Claudius is an image to behold. Phillips sympathies lie only with Packouz, and rely quite heavily on making Diveroli a monster. There is probably some truth in this. Fortunately the film doesn’t end on a cliched note. The last scene fading into Everybody Knows by Leonard Cohen may be the only thing remembered about it in 20 years.

(***1/2 out of *****)

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