From the director of The Hangover series, War Dogs tells the fascinating true story of a pair of twenty-somethings who become arms dealers for the United States military. Returning to his hometown of Miami, Efraim Diveroli, portrayed by Jonah Hill, recruits old childhood friend David Packouz, portrayed by Miles Teller, in a new rather ill-repute yet legal business venture. With the movie being primarily from his perspective, Packouz is in a dead-end job and desperate for money at first hesitates to partner with his estranged friend. However, eventually he takes part in Diveroli’s ingenious scheme to bid on small military contracts for weapons, ammunition, and other equipment such as bulletproof vests, deals that the major defense contractors overlook. Essentially serving as middlemen, their company AEY makes them millionaires during the heyday of the Iraq War in 2006. After meeting a very shady character played by Bradley Cooper who seems to come straight out of American Hustle, they decide to hit it big time and eventually win a $300 million contract to provide weapons to Afghanistan. Diveroli playing fast and loose with the rules and laws catches up to them during the deal when they encounter unscrupulous individuals in Albania. They also face major repercussions with the United States military and government. Interestingly, the director whose claim to fame is comedies tries to make the movie entertaining with some comedic bits and an energetic soundtrack with even songs from Creedence Clearwater Revival. The tone shifts especially when the partners struggle with one another, and the film becomes more of a serious drama. Jonah Hill gives a terrific performance and at times channels his morally reprehensible and wild character from The Wolf of Wall Street. The movie itself reminded me of Nicolas Cage’s Lord of War in its depiction of arms dealers and The Wolf of Wall Street in its depiction of of a hedonistic and corrupt workplace. Overall, I found it to be an entertaining film with a serious undertone that delves into a deeply fascinating story that is truly stranger than fiction.
At the time they both got involved with AEY, the founder Diveroli was only 18 years old and Packouz was 23 years old. By the end of 2006, it is estimated they made $10.5 million off 149 Department of Defense contracts. Both men are now in their early to mid-thirties and were convicted and served time for conspiracy, fraud, and other felonies related to the Afghan arms deal. Diveroli spent 4 years in a federal prison following his 2011 conviction while Packouz spent seven months under house arrest. According to some people, they are no longer friends and are not on speaking terms. In fact, Packouz is suing his former partner over the money he never received from AEY; he claims Diveroli still has some wealth while he is on Social Security. Diveroli is currently suing the movie’s studio Warner Brothers for using his story without his permission and without being paid.