‘War Dogs’ makes you laugh on the edge of your seat

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Jonah Hill and Miles Teller have a masterful performance in “War Dogs.”

Arman Antonyan, Business Manager and Website Designer

The War on Terror has for too long been a boring, repetitive film topic, one riddled with simplistic “good vs evil” conflicts that focus too often on the American soldier. In a surprising break of the mold and of character, Todd Phillips, director of pure comedies such as Hangover, has told a thrilling, grand tale in War Dogs, although it retains much of Phillips’ humor.

The film tells the unthinkable but true story of 20-something year old American arms dealers David Packouz (Miles Teller) and Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill) during the Iraqi and Afghan wars. David begins the movie as a struggling Miami massage therapist and bedsheet salesman with a pregnant girlfriend. In a stroke of luck, David reunites with his long-lost friend Efraim, who offers him the chance to join him in selling weapons to the American military.

At this time, President Bush has begun making Department of Defense weapons contracts publicly available to any company, setting the stage for a modern day Gold Rush. There are plenty of “crumbs” as Efraim calls it, small arms deals for small fries like them. They make piles of cash, though not without exciting hiccups that force them to go right into the fray in scenic Iraq, among other places. They are ever hungry for more, until assistance from Bradley Cooper helps them land a $300 million contract to supply 100 million rounds of ammo to the Afghan Army, a feat they can’t accomplish without a lot of risk-taking and corner-cutting.

The movie offers a unique perspective on modern warfare through its focus on arms dealers, those quiet middlemen who make all of the money in warfare and shed none of the blood. Moral questions are raised as Efraim reassures the anti-war David that the war’s going to happen anyway, that as arms dealers all they are doing is taking some of the pie for themselves. Movies in the genre like The Hurt Locker and American Sniper tend to focus more on ground combat than anything else. Yet there is another part of war rarely explored in film: Eisenhower’s “military-industrial complex,” the business of war, the profiteering, the racket. The American public knows it exists. Ask a random stranger what motivated the Iraq War, and they’re likely to tell you it was oil. But for some reason, War Dogs is alone in Hollywood in its critical examination of the economic side of warfare, and the irresponsibility of the American government, outside of boring, overdramatic Iraq documentaries.

Although Miles Teller does well in the film, Jonah Hill’s stellar performance as Efraim steals the show. He plays the archetypal charming psychopath, one who will go to any lengths for his company’s bottom line. Efraim puts on mask after mask to deceive in the film, and it is hilarious. When he needs to, he can be a devout Jew who only supports the war for the sake of Israel, a fanatically pro-American Christian whose family is on the brink of financial ruin, or a playboy in the club.

Efraim hits new moral lows every 20 minutes, and even the sincerity of his friendship with David is called into question. David is the one who worries about morals for Efraim, while Efraim strings him along without qualms. It is no wonder Efraim idolizes Scarface’s Tony Montana. Efraim is surprisingly and terrifyingly lovable, though, in all his arrogance, wit, and insanity.

There’s nothing Americans love more than a good underdog story. Though David and Efraim’s actions are at least morally grey, and often immoral, one can’t help but watch the pair with astonishment, captivation and even some admiration as they rise meteorically from humble beginnings. It is a tale so outlandish that it could only ever be nonfictional. Phillips’ War Dogs is a treat from start to finish, a worthy addition and tribute to the American Dream genre of films.

Rating: 9/10