By Jason Yon
Elm Staff Writer
Coming from the director of the Hangover trilogy, Todd Phillips, “War Dogs” follows the true story of young prodigy gun runners Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz from their meteoric rise to their eventual and expected fall. While not exactly what the trailers advertised, “War Dogs” turned out to be better than what it probably would have been had it stuck to the typical raunchy Jonah Hill comedy. “War Dogs” can actually be best described as a combination of “Scarface” and “Wolf of Wall Street,” which Hill co-starred in.
When “War Dogs” opens, David Packouz (Miles Teller) is down on his luck. Packouz dropped out of college after one semester and subsequently went through six jobs ending as massage therapist. With a child on the way, Packouz needs to find a way to make some extra cash. After a failed scheme to sell high quality bed linens to retirement homes, Packouz miraculously runs into an old friend from grade school, Efraim Diveroli (Hill). Diveroli explains to his childhood friend that he makes his living of off the crumbs left by large military contractors for the US government. Although the legality of everything is questionable, Packouz cannot turn down the offer due to the monetary opportunities and the chance to be with an old friend. As Packouz becomes more and more involved in Diveroli’s company, AEY Inc., they begin to take on larger and riskier contracts, sometimes traveling to sketchy places to complete the deals.
Contradictory to what the advertising implied, “War Dogs” is not a typical raunchy comedy. Much of the film covers the serious subject of semi-illegal international gun running. Hill is really the only comedic aspect of the movie while on the other hand Diveroli is cautious and reserved. Diveroli is more suited for the world that he inhabits and Packouz was better for the life he left behind. He is forced to lie to his wife throughout the film about his relationship with AEY Inc. and its true purpose and involvement in the war that both he and his wife decry. “War Dogs” also contains a lot of imagery reminiscent of “Scarface”. Diveroli often references the movie and owns memorabilia related to it. Cocaine is also used heavily in both movies, and not in a comedic sense. The “War Dogs” poster is also clearly inspired by that of “Scarface.” Much like “Scarface,” “War Dogs” only uses comedy to break away from some of the tenser life threatening moments.
Hill’s laugh in “War Dogs” is unbelievably contagious and somewhat unsettling. Nevertheless, he always garners a laugh from the audience. The closest thing Hill’s laugh can be compared to is Bernie Mac’s laugh from his brief role as Bobby Bolivia in Michael Bay’s “Transformers.” The unusual laugh adds comedic relief and expands on the character by making the audience uncertain about him, much like how Packouz feels for a majority of the movie. At times he questions whether Diveroli is actually his friend because he realizes that Diveroli possesses the charismatic skill of being exactly who people want him to be. He can masterfully impersonate people and act in different manners to get people on his side. These skills became incredibly useful in the field of shady international arms dealing.
In conclusion “War Dogs” was worth seeing. It featured an illegitimate business that hasn’t really been covered and the thought that it is based on a true story makes it more interesting. What truly made it good was the amount of the movie that was taken seriously. A film of the same topic filled entirely with vulgar jokes would not have performed quite as well. Although the movie slows down at parts, these sections do not detract from it as a whole. Phillips definitely delivered in creating something that can be serious, entertaining and occasionally funny. I would certainly recommend “War Dogs” to anyone who enjoys bio-pics or Hill in general.