A bro-comedy based on the true story of a couple of stoners who sold guns to the US government, War Dogs casts Jonah Hill (from lots of things) and Miles Teller (from the film where he can hit a drum really quickly) as the two plucky young Miami dweeblings turned arms dealers to the Pentagon.
At the height of all the terrible hoo-hah in Iraq and Afghanistan, David Packouz and Efraim Diveroli trawled DoD contract listings – essentially Gumtree for crates filled with guns – picking up the small government orders that the arms industry giants overlooked. Jonah Hill plays Efraim as an untrustworthy trickster, a slobbish but charming opportunist who ropes the meeker Packouz into his perfectly legal (but soon to be not so) business.
Inherent in the relationship is the inevitable backstabbing of one by the other, an overtly telegraphed badness that dampens the film’s efforts to exude some fun buddy-comedy vibes. War Dogs more than gets by on the drama of its source material though, drawing some inspiration from The Wolf of Wall Street and The Big Short by smattering the script with freeze frames, narration and quick-cut montages of numbers going up and money flying everywhere. Seeing bad men get away with things is, as ever, great fun.
Director Todd Phillips, responsible for all three Hangovers, is well-versed in writing about funny men coming together to do dumb stuff, but at times War Dogs feels out of its depth. Hill and Teller are energetic and likeable enough to make for an entertaining time – in particular when they’re smuggling a truckload of AK-47s into Iraq, in comic scenes that easily could’ve been lifted from an imagined Hangover sequel – but Phillips’ trademark humour doesn’t quite blend with the film’s true-crime chronicling. Ana de Armas is lumbered with a pretty rubbish role too, serving only as an intermittently grumpy wife-foil to be navigated around by lying male leads.
There’s a compelling enough story behind War Dogs that it feels like it needn’t have been a comedy, and it isn’t quite funny enough to make you glad that it is.