In 2015, Guy Lawson wrote a book called Arms and the Dudes, based on an article he wrote for Rolling Stone about two stoners who managed to deceive the US government to win a multimillion dollar arms contract. The book forms the basis of the Todd Philips’ latest film – his first feature since wrapping up The Hangover Trilogy.
Sick of his dead-end job as a masseuse, David Packouz (Miles Teller) is reunited with his best friend Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill), who works as an arms dealer. After learning of David’s financial difficulties, Efraim persuades him to work with him to secure US arms contracts. However, David soon learns that success comes at a price.
Set against the sun-kissed backdrop of Miami, there are obvious comparisons to Scarface and Wolf on Wall Street, which reflect the duo’s ideas of grandeur. Efraim easily influences David using their friendship and the latter’s need to support his girlfriend Iz (Ana de Armas) that through his gift of the gab, it is easy to forget that they are actually conning the US government. The screenplay enforces this as it heavily taps into the American dream - indulging in the power of money – while sidestepping the inevitable moral conflict about the war. This evident lack of questions and morals, especially from the inexperienced David, makes viewers ask whether he is that naive or just plain desperate.
However, Philips has been making ‘buddy’ films since 2004’s Road Trip, so he is familiar with capturing the correct dynamic between his starring cast. His experience comes through in bringing out the great chemistry between Teller and Hill. While Hill is having a ball as the increasingly unbalanced Efraim, Teller’s straight-faced David consistently plays the anchor in the film, conveying a whole range of emotions that represent the much-needed reality check in this incredulous story.
All in all, War Dogs is a fun-filled feature with Hill and Teller delivering their most entertaining performances to date.