I’m getting a bit weary of movies “based on a true story” that chronicle big-time scams by sleazeball upstarts. “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “The Big Short” have now been joined by “War Dogs,” which is about two Miami childhood friends, David Packouz (Miles Teller) and Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill), who improbably become international arms dealers during the Iraq War.
Perhaps the reason we are seeing so many of these movies is because the laggard economy has provided a breeding ground for get-rich-quick escapades featuring unscrupulous bottom feeders. Sure, they get caught in the end, but until then, what a thrill ride!
Except there’s not much that’s thrilling here. “War Dogs” – directed by Todd Phillips and written by him along with Stephen Chin and Jason Smilovic, based on a 2011 Rolling Stone article by Guy Lawson – sets up a predictable contrast between the essentially decent but kinda dopey David and the morally bankrupt Efraim. When the awakenings and betrayals set in, it’s like watching a formula being worked out.
There are a few good scenes, especially one in which the boys and their driver truck a cargo of Berettas across 500 miles of desert to Baghdad, and Jonah Hill has gone from being a cartoonish comic actor to a real one, but “War Dogs” ends up being no better than its protagonists at delivering the goods. Grade: C+ (Rated R for language throughout, drug use and some sexual references.)