With the war in Iraq raging on, Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill) offers childhood friend David Packouz (Miles Teller) a chance to make big bucks by becoming an international arms dealer. Together, they exploit a government initiative that allows businesses to bid on U.S. military contracts. Starting small allows the duo to rake in money and live the high life. They soon find themselves in over their heads after landing a $300 million deal to supply Afghan forces, a deal that puts them in business with some very shady people.
This one was a little weird. Is it a comedy or is it a drama? Is it funny because Jonah Hill says and does all these outrageous things or is it funny that it was just so easy for them to get away with what they did here? It was hard to tell sometimes while watching this. Here Hill plays Efraim Diveroli, a small time arms dealer who offers his childhood friend David Packouz (Teller) the chance to become big time, international arms dealers. Down on his luck, David accepts the offer and the two quickly make it big until it of course gets too much for them.
The film starts off with David being miserable while working as a massage therapist. He feels like his life is going nowhere. Things start to change once he is reunited with old friend Efraim who is a gun dealer. Funny how we get a lot of foreshadowing early on as we learn that David’s family hated Efraim and tried to keep the two away from each other. David is conflicted at first by Efraim’s offer since he is against war but that disappears fast once he learns about all the money he can make.
Through David’s regular eyes was where we got to learn about the war industry which was fun to watch and insightful. This was also where the film sort of acts as a commentary on the war by showing us how easy it all is/was. Efraim was the personification of this, being more of a caricature of that culture. He basically represented everything that was bad about war culture since he took advantage of it in whatever way he could for his own, and later David’s, benefit. This allowed him the opportunity to spew a series of somewhat funny lines which were mostly in the trailers. Hill can definitely handle this type of material but he did come on a little too strongly at times which made his character unlikeable.
David was a much more likeable character because he was the more normal one of the two, acting as the straight man to Efraim’s craziness. He was just trying to make a better life for himself and his girlfriend Iz (Ana De Armas), who is also opposed to the war. The fact that the film gave him some semblance of a life made him more interesting by default. His character had a lot more development than Efraim in that he ended up different from where he started but Efraim stayed the same. His character had more progression since the film focused on him almost exclusively while not letting Efraim have more than his quips. His character may have been more likeable if we had learned more about him than through David’s early narration.
While the film’s marketing heavily involves Hill and Teller, their chemistry could have been better. It’s not completely their fault as they are not together on screen as much as they should have. Their relationship wasn’t as believable because their characters are on different levels so it was hard to see them together. The better relationship here was David and Iz. They obviously had less screen time than David and Efraim but they were better to watch together. Bradley Cooper was also great in a smaller role as a shady, menacing arms dealer named Henry Girard. Even with the limited screen time, he managed to be imposing and sometimes scary with only his sunglasses.
Despite Hill and Teller’s slight incompatibility, they were still good here in their individual roles. Hill caricatured Efraim was mostly funny despite being overbearing and unlikeable at times but that wasn’t all his fault because that was how his character was written. Teller was very likeable as David, bringing some seriousness and maturity to the role. De Armas was good too as Iz.
Overall, this was a fun look at the industry of war with decent performances but the tone was a little weird.