Story of 2 Yeshiva students turned arms dealers, hits Netflix

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Picture
Miles Teller and Jonah Hill play war profiteers in director Todd Phillips’ War Dogs.

Dan Buffa

Out of all the deep troubles that come from a war between countries, there are certain people who can benefit from it, even normal civilians like us. David Packouz (Miles Teller) and Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill) had the chance to buy huge government military contracts because of a loophole in the system (thanks George W. Bush) that allowed small businesses to operate in international arms dealing. 
Welcome to Todd Phillips’ 2016 film, “War Dogs,” currently streaming on Netflix. When a movie climbs on the giant streaming service and sits at #3 on their views, it’s time for me to tell you if it’s any good. Like an orphan film brought in from the lowest DVD rack chill of a movie’s post-theatrical career, Netflix extends many films, shows, comedians a new life. Here are five things to know. 

IT’S NOT a Bradley Cooper film

One website had it listed like it was “American Sniper” or “Limitless.” No, he’s not even officially a member of the cast (uncredited cameo). He’s a producer, (Phillips helped launch Cooper’s career with “The Hangover” movies), so that’s why he’s here. Maybe, at some point, he could have played one of the two lead roles, but he only has a small part here. Hint: He’s actually in the first 5 minutes, but wears a mask. 

Jonah Hill goes WAY over the top

But it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Imagine Hill’s character from “The Wolf of Wall Street” and add some gun-running craziness to his resume, and you have Efraim Diveroli. He was the class clown Jewish kid who smoked marijuana in high school, but went on to supply Afghan troops with enough guns to extend a war. Instead of bringing a serious element to a movie without a care in the world, Hill embraces the wildness of the story. Let’s put it this way. If you like wacky Jonah doing wacky things, you’ll like his work here. 

Ana de Armas has a thankless role

The “Knives Out” star plays Packouz’s pregnant girlfriend, which means she is the only clear-thinking head in the movie. She is the political activist who hates war and hates guns even more. But the actress is given nothing to do here except look worried, sad, and sometimes perplexed by the movie she’s in. Definitely not a war dog. 

Warning: The story/script has four sets of hands on it!

This is rarely a good thing. The guy who actually wrote the New York Times article that the movie is (semi) based upon, Guy Lawson, didn’t have a single finger on the script, which may have been the one true miss here. How do you leave a guy who wrote a piece called “Arms and Dudes” out of the screenplay?! What could have played out like a gold rush comes off as a group of people passing a laptop around, trying to end a story they already changed significantly?

Kevin Pollak has a nice little role

I have a rule in movies. If Pollak shows up, this particular scene will not stink. A good character who lent some of his greatest work to Bryan Singer’s “The Usual Suspects,” his role here as Ralph Stutsky, one of the dudes’ partners in the arms dealing, enlivens things for a little while. 
Bottom Line: When it was released in theaters, I advised my readers to save it for DVD. Well, Netflix is the new DVD route, so I will tell you no harm will come to you if this movie gets played in your home this evening. The bitterness of a derivative take on a true story will float right off your shoulders as the ever-likable Teller soothes your wounds about handing machine guns off to warlords. Hill will make you laugh and shake your head equally. You’ll want to kidnap Armas from the script, but Cooper’s facial hair will briefly take your mind off the mediocre elements of this tale. 
In other words, it’s the perfect late night Netflix flick that you will start enthusiastically, watch 45 minutes to an hour of before falling asleep, and finish the next day. You may like it, love it, hate it, or just forget it. I thought it was okay!