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‘War Dogs’ Captures Agony, Ecstasy of Arms and the Dudes (Video)

Jonah Hill stars with Miles Teller in War Dogs, a true story about two 20-something arms dealers in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Photo: Studio)

Jonah Hill stars with Miles Teller in War Dogs, a true story about two 20-something arms dealers in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Photo: Studio)

“War Dogs” is a smart, snappy comedy about two friends in their early 20s (Jonah Hill and Miles Teller), who exploit a little known government program that takes them on a rollicking and dangerous joy ride in war-torn Iraq and Afghanistan.

Real life Efraim Diveroli (Hill) and David Packouz (Teller) are college friends who re-unite looking for ways to make money.

They hatch a plan to take advantage of a government program that allows small businesses to bid on U.S. Military contracts.

They soon become full-fledged arms dealers and graduate to $300 million deals. Along the way, they encounter an array of shady people – notably Henry, a role essayed to perfection by Bradley Cooper.

Packouz’s obvious business acumen fuels Diferoli’s bluster and together the pair form quite a convincing troupe.

“Hangover” Director (the entire trilogy) Todd Phillips smartly helms the movie and had a hand in co-writing the script with Jason Smilovic and Stephen Chin.

It’s based on a Rolling Stone article and later a book, “Arms and the Dudes,” written by Guy Lawson.

Lawson was interviewed recently and said he expected an intense, “60 Minutes”-like documentary on his story. Did he get a surprise!

Editor’s Note: The film is heavily fictionalized and dramatized. Many of the events depicted never took place.

If anything, “War Dogs” is a showcase for the comedic talents of Hill (“The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Moneyball”) and Teller (“Whiplash”), who is quickly becoming the hot new Hollywood actor.

Phillips’ camera ranges from sumptuous Miami Beach at its best, to war-torn motifs shot in Albania, of all places. One scene from the former Eastern-Bloc nation features a massive warehouse littered with everything from tanks to AK47 assault rifles. It’s brilliantly staged.

Phillips sometimes freezes the scenes as a narration starts, as well as titling chapters. Both techniques work terrifically well.

As good as the story and acting performances are, Philips’ work here stands tall.

Throughout the production, the World War II term “FUBAR” (fucked up beyond all recognition) certainly came to mind more than once.

Ana de Armas is spot-on as Packouz’s conflicted wife, who is against war and government in principle.

Before long, though, she’s enjoying the riches gleaned from their shady arms deals. They move into a spectacular Miami beach condo. Diferoli lives right across the hall.

Phillips has filled the movie with some great, classic songs, such as “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” by Vanilla Fudge and Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows.”

There’s also a hilarious scene early on, when Teller’s character talks turkey with the owner of a nursing home; the owner’s son is doing an acoustic version for the assembled crowd of Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear The Reaper.”

A bro-bonding comedy for sure, that actually happened–for the most part; I loved it.

“War Dogs” will be released domestically Friday (Aug. 19). It goes up against “Ben-Hur,” the remake, “Kubo and the Two Strings” and a still strong “Suicide Squad.”

It’s projected to gross $12 million to 15 million from 3,100 theaters, according to The Los Angeles Times.

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