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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The War Dogs of Miami Beach

The latest semi-biographical “based on a true story” comedy-drama on the big screen is ‘War Dogs,’ adapted from a Rolling Stone article and later a full-length book entitled “Arms and the Dudes” by Guy Lawson chronicling the misadventures of two young Jewish buddies in one of the world’s oldest professions.  Hollywood has a pretty decent track record mining sensational news stories for box office gold, so it should come as little surprise that the fascinating tale of Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill) and David Packouz (Miles Teller) just begged to be told.
 
Efraim and David were (they had a falling out after their arms dealing exploits) best friends from junior high who re-connected in their early twenties in Miami Beach.  David, a certified massage therapist struggling to make ends meet, was approached by his old pal Efraim after being out of touch for many years and recruited to work for him in his enterprise.  This was back in the day when the Pentagon was under increasing scrutiny for cronyism in the wake of Dick Cheney’s company's (Halliburton) profiteering during the second US invasion of Iraq.  Small businesses suddenly find themselves in a position to vie for government contracts, and AEY (Efraim’s company) dived in head first.  From the highs of gun running through the Iraqi Triangle delivering Beretta pistols to US troops to the ill-fated attempt to supply the Afghan army with AK-47 bullets, the movie paints a vivid and often enlightening portrait of the shady world of arms dealing and the potential pitfalls of promising more than you can deliver.
 
Scathingly funny and whip-smart in execution, ‘War Dogs’ is the latest in a series of true stories adapted into comedy-dramas (or dramedies) which includes ‘The Big Short,’ ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ and ‘Pain and Gain.’  Interestingly, they all have one thing in common: The protagonists in all of these movies are “ordinary” people who pursue what they believe to be “The American Dream.”  In their determination to succeed and to gain wealth, prestige, the “good life” or whatever it is they’re after, they lose sight of what is right and spiral toward their ultimate downfall.  As such, these films also serve as cautionary tales to us all.

Grade: A- 

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