Review: War Dogs (2016 movie)

The main characters really existed and really did most of this stuff in the early years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

David Pakouz (played by Miles Teller) was a 20-something massage therapist barely scraping by in Miami Beach. He hoped to do better by selling a stock of quality bedclothes at a discount to old folks homes, but he learned that the owners weren’t interested in quality. (The real Pakouz has a cameo as a singer entertaining the residents at one of the retirement homes.)

But then he runs into an old school chum, Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill), at a funeral, and Hill turns out to be making a very healthy income bidding on arms contracts via a Pentagon website, aiming for smaller deals that the major players overlook. Diveroli is busy enough to need a partner, so he brings Pakouz into the business and soon he’s no longer worrying about money.

But then they face a crisis trying to deliver a supply of Berettas for the Iraqi police, and since a failure would kill their chances for future contracts, they wind up personally trucking the guns into Iraq and nearly getting themselves killed. But they survive, and they’re able to make even bigger deals that are increasingly shady. Meanwhile Pakouz gradually catches on that Diveroli’s lies aren’t limited to the ones he tells other people.

The story reminds me of Elmore Leonard novels, in which people tend to believe themselves to be a lot more clever than they really were.

The acting is quite good and the writing decent, but as a fact-based comedy crime drama it’s only occasionally funny and I found it often depressing. That’s a matter of taste, though, and others enjoyed it a lot more than I did.


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