War Dogs puts glamorous spin on spinning out of control
Movie | Movie about modern military dealings glorifies the love of money
by Bob Brown
Posted 8/23/16, 09:22 am
Based on a true story, War Dogs will likely appeal to disaffected 20-somethings who believe they can find adventure and fortune behind a computer keyboard. The box office hit—in its opening weekend coming in at No. 3, two spots ahead of Ben-Hur—reveals the corrupting influence of money but also glamorizes it.
David Packouz (Miles Teller), a college dropout, toils as a massage therapist and failed bedsheet salesman. His best friend, Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill), himself a high-school dropout, takes advantage of regulations coming after the Second Gulf War that require the U.S. government to open military contracts to public bidding. The Department of Defense (DOD) publishes a website with an ever-changing wish list more than 10,000 items long. Although major players still vie for the big deals, Efraim forms a small firm, AEY, and hires David to help him sift through the site for overlooked solicitations.
“When you’re dealing with the Pentagon,” Efraim says, “crumbs are worth millions.”
Efraim and David’s unusual journey, initially in the safety of a Miami office building, eventually takes them into perilous theaters of military operations. Successfully fulfilling increasingly lucrative contracts, they convince the DOD to award them a $300 million bid to arm U.S. allies in the Afghan military. But Efraim and David begin to rely on shady arms dealers and violent terrorists to supply the goods. When they discover the possibly illegal source of more than 100 million rounds of ammunition, they must choose between obeying U.S. law and reaping unfathomable wealth.
One film character aptly describes AEY’s venture as “a case study in all that’s wrong with the government’s procurement process,” but the film barely calls out Efraim and David for their corrupt choices. In fact, War Dogs (rated R for language throughout, drug use, and some sexual references) seems to celebrate Efraim’s (in particular) debauched lifestyle, making it look fun and easy to cheat death and taxes. When relationships are shattered and lives lost, Efraim and David apparently feel little remorse. If love covers a multitude of sins, the love of money exposes them.
The film does have one bright spot, showing David and his girlfriend, Iz (Ana de Armas), rejoicing at news of her pregnancy.
The sonogram operator tells them, “That’s your baby’s heartbeat.”
War Dogs could be a lesson in hypocrisy. David and Iz both state on more than one occasion that they oppose U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet their conscientious objection evaporates when David unspools his first wad of hundred-dollar bills. But for viewers easily hypnotized by glitz, the film falsely suggests the road to heaven can be paved with bad intentions.
Bob is a graduate of the WORLD Journalism Institute’s mid-career course.