Movie Review: War Dogs

If you’ve seen the trailer for “War Dogs,” (at least the one I’ve seen repeatedly), you may spend the first half of the movie, scratching your head, wondering when a certain scene – which implies to those unfamiliar with the plot, that it is the catalyst that kicks off the real action – is going to occur. This is the scene where the bigwigs in the U.S. Pentagon meet with the two heroes (a word here used loosely), Miles Teller and Jonah Hill, to inform them they’ve landed a $300 million contract by basically being incredibly stupid when it came to submitting their bid to be the go-between procuring military weapons for the (second) Iraq War. Back out in the corridor, Jonah has a meltdown, and then the pair is off to Iraq. Well, the two do go to Iraq on arms deal business, and get up to all kinds of shenanigans, but only after they return, make the major deal which leads them into Albania and more danger. The trailer for “War Dogs,” could also have portrayed the movie as one where the main conflict is between one guy (Miles) and his conscience, but it being released in August probably meant that they went with a more lighthearted buddy comedy feel. It can be watched that way, but I personally found the conscience conflict more interesting than the friction between the two young men, which is pretty nonexistent until the end.

When the movie opens, Miles is working as a massage therapist to rich people in L.A., but considering a career change, especially because his wife (Ana de Armas) is expecting a baby. He next tries to sell fancy bed linen to area nursing homes, but that doesn’t catch on either, so when he bumps into his old junior high friend (Jonah) at a funeral, is impressed when Jonah explains his own profession, (the title) in which he watches “eBay for arms” online and takes contracts which are small potatoes compared to the majority (but still pay well). Soon Jonah recruits Miles as a partner, which leads to them driving a shipment of weapons through the “Triangle of Death,” in Iraq. Heady with success, they start living the big life and even hire staff at their business (though no one knows what the initials are supposed to stand for). But the secrecy his job requires (or so he believes) leads to friction between Miles and Ana, and after a particularly violent run-in with thugs, he starts to question whether or not this job is really for him.

Throughout the movie, various terms are explained as “x – with arms.” “War Dogs,” itself could be pitched as “The Wolf of Wall Street,” (in which Jonah Hill also co-starred) with arms – like that movie, it traces the ascent of two otherwise unremarkable young men from obscurity into the high life, until their sins catch up to them. Like “TWofWS,” their empire winds up toppling due to a very basic mistake. “War Dogs,” is based on a nonfiction book (which I have not read), and so claims to be “based on a true story.” I don’t know how true it is to reality, but much of it is amusing (although not roll on the floor hilarious) and has some pointed things to say about the military, wars and the US government. At one point, Jonah and Miles are unexpectedly rescued by a US military plane, and although he has previously been opposed to the war (at least in principle), Jonah starts yelling, “God bless Dick Cheney!” And he means it.

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