Actors Miles Teller (L) and Jonah Hill attend the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' "War Dogs" at TCL Chinese Theatre on August 15, 2016 in Hollywood, California.
Actors Miles Teller (L) and Jonah Hill attend the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' "War Dogs" at TCL Chinese Theatre on August 15, 2016 in Hollywood, California.  Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Raucous War Dogs Has Bark and Bite

Aug 18, 2016

One of the pocket pleasures of moviegoing is reveling in the audacious behavior of people who do things we ourselves would never do. In Todd Phillips' War Dogs, Jonah Hill and Miles Teller play two regular dudes from Miami turned major-player arms dealers in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hill's Efraim is the misbehaving yeshiva kid who parlays modest, youthful troublemaking into a shady multimillion-dollar career. Teller's David, Efraim's old classmate, is the dutiful, going-nowhere man-boy who's frustrated by his dead-end job as a masseur. He's an easy mark when Efraim strides back into his life, promising easy money just by making a few business deals with some nice little East European munitions manufacturers.

War Dogs is based on a true story, and even if you think you can't believe it, you sort of can. Efraim and David seem just ordinary enough, and just under-the-radar smart enough, to make their jaunty little schemes work. The movie has little of the sourness of Phillips' Hangover movies: even though Efraim is a coarse, conniving creep, Hill squeezes a few droplets of humanity into his character, while Teller's David is instantaneously likable. After sampling this movie's vicarious thrills--like a bumpy, tense truck ride through the Iraqi desert--count your blessings that of all the potential careers you might have considered, war profiteer has always lurked at the bottom of the list, if it appeared at all.

--S.Z.

TIME may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. Offers may be subject to change without notice.