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Movie Night – ‘War Dogs’ illustrates failure in operating method

By Bradley Griffith

The name “War Dogs” conjures visions of “Apocalypse Now” or maybe “Saving Private Ryan.”  Despite its name, “War Dogs” isn’t about war at all.  It’s a story about two twenty-something boys whose abilities didn’t rise as high as their aspirations, and it’s now available for home rental.

In 2005 David Packouz (Miles Teller) is a young man trying to find his way in life.  He’s a massage therapist in Miami, but he’s always on the lookout for the next big money-making scheme.  David wants to own one of the mansions he visits rather than being the masseuse visiting for only an hour to collect his $75 fee.

David tries different “businesses,” most notably selling high-end bed sheets to the thousands of retirement homes in South Florida.  Nobody wants his sheets, nobody wants anything he has to sell.  He spent all of his meager savings on cartons of bed sheets that sit stacked in the apartment that he shares with his girlfriend, Iz (Ana De Armas).

David is at a funeral for a friend when his life begins to change.  He runs into Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill), David’s best friend until he moved to California after tenth grade.  The two quickly become reacquainted and Efraim tells David about his business.  Efraim sells guns and other necessities of war to the government.  With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan the Department of Defense is spending billions of dollars buying equipment from hundreds of contractors, and Efraim is getting rich on small defense contracts.

David sees Efraim making money while he is struggling to get by as a massage therapist.  To top things off for David, Iz tells him she’s pregnant.  David is broke, has no way to provide for Iz and his baby, and has no prospects for a better job or a better life.  That’s when Efraim offers him a job.

Efraim and David are happy for a while winning small government contracts and making good money.  Their problems arise when they start trying to mix it up with the big boys.  Despite the odds, Efraim and David actually believe that two young punks in Miami can compete with enormous defense contractors.

“War Dogs” is based on the true story of David Packouz and Efraim Diveroli, but it’s still hard to believe that these guys could become arms dealers to the United States government.  It’s a great illustration of the problems with the government procurement procedures.  David and Efraim were faking it until they could make it.  Lying became a way of life for them.

The movie is filmed in strange sort of way that involves Miles Teller narrating the action as David Packouz and many scenes are actually named with text on the screen in much the same way silent movies were made a hundred years ago.  It gives the movie an odd tongue-in-cheek feeing while showing how two boys became arms dealers.

David and Efraim are under such incredible pressure that it was only a matter of time before their friendship would be tested.  The way the movie portrayed their sudden rise in the industry it was obvious that their downfall was inevitable.  They are incompetent arms dealers in the same way that Walter White was the world’s most inept drug dealer.

If the purpose of the movie was to make Efraim look like the bad guy in the story and David an unwilling patsy, then the filmmakers achieved their goal.  I don’t know the real story behind the movie, but Jonah Hill does a great job of making you detest Efraim and his whole persona.

“Wars Dogs” is a cautionary tale about two stupid kids that will never grow up who try every shortcut imaginable to get what they want.  Above all, it’s a get rich quick scheme that could have used more humor to soften its rough edges.

Grade: B

Rated R for language throughout, drug use, and some sexual references.