By Laurie Coker
There is no fine line between “based on a true story” and reality in movie making. In fact, more often than not, embellishing rules out. Hollywood has a field day on adding elements to enhance the story for a film. War Dogs starring Miles Teller and Jonah Hill, much like Wolf of Wall Street, tells the tells of unethical and immoral people who bank on dodgy and yet, legal business dealings with the United States military. War Dogs, rightly rated R, demonstrates the ignorance of some and the craftiness of others in the sale of arms to our government.
Sometimes insightful and others times bordering on asinine, War Dogs follows twenty-something-year-old young men as they deal dirty in military arms. David Packouz (Teller) and Efraim Diveroli (Hill) were best friends in middle school but grew apart. Packouz works as a massage therapist, delivering to wealthy clients and on the side he attempts to sell fancy bed sheets to nursing homes, when a funeral brings old buddy Efraim back into his life. Diveroli is less than honorable, but he is wickedly charming and dastardly dynamic in spite of his sleazy slovenliness. Truthfully, Hill plays him masterfully, complete with slick-backed hair and a weird chortling laugh. Desperate for money, with a wife and new baby on the way, a natural salesman Packouz leaps in feet first and eyes purposely closed. Their ride is wild, wicked and frankly insane and all in all, fairly short-lived.
As noted, Hill is fantastic and Teller, too, plays his part perfectly. They have a certain edginess in chemistry that enhances their performances and with just enough drama comedy blend the relationship works well. The story itself manages to hold interest throughout, in part because of its stars and the excellent ensemble cast, and in part because of quality direction and editing. The soundtrack, too, makes up for slight lapses in pacing. The semi-narrative style works as well and actually ties the tale together fittingly. It’s a story of cringe-worthy corruption that borders of legal in most aspects and shocks (admittedly not everyone) viewers – regarding the outlandish business of war.
Maybe we shouldn’t be so intrigued by the likes of people like Packouz and Diveroli, but in spite of the ethical questionability, these men do see a means to make money and they dive in. Their experience could easily be a study for a business model class, deception and all. War Dogs earns a B in from me and can’t see where all the critic hate is coming from. The performances alone are worth the price of admission.