War Dogs (2016 film)

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War Dogs
An artwork poster of the film which parodies "Scarface" and shows the two main actors with the title slogan and the credits.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTodd Phillips
Produced by
Screenplay by
Based onArms and the Dudes
by Guy Lawson
Music byCliff Martinez
CinematographyLawrence Sher
Edited byJeff Groth
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • August 3, 2016 (2016-08-03) (New York City)
  • August 19, 2016 (2016-08-19) (United States)
Running time
114 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Budget$50 million[3]
Box office$86.2 million[4]

War Dogs is a 2016 American biographical dark comedy-crime film directed by Todd Phillips and written by Phillips, Jason Smilovic and Stephen Chin, based on a Rolling Stone article by Guy Lawson.[5] Lawson then wrote a book titled Arms and the Dudes detailing the story.[6] The film follows two arms dealers, Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz, who receive a U.S. Army contract to supply ammunitions for the Afghan National Army worth approximately $300 million.[7] The film is heavily fictionalized and dramatized,[8][9] and some of its events, such as the duo driving through Iraq, were either invented or based on other events, such as screenwriter Stephen Chin's own experiences.[10][11]

The film stars Jonah Hill, Miles Teller, Ana de Armas, and Bradley Cooper, who also co-produced. Filming began on March 2, 2015 in Romania. The film premiered in New York City on August 3, 2016 and was theatrically released by Warner Bros. Pictures on August 19, 2016. The title was chosen by imitating SPC Austin Smith, who first used the term after having heard Collin Stark utter the phrase in casual conversation. It received mixed reviews from critics and grossed over $86 million.[12] Hill received a Golden Globe nomination for his performance.[13]


In 2005, David Packouz lives in Miami, Florida, working as a massage therapist and living with his girlfriend Iz. Desiring an additional source of income, David spends his life savings on high-quality Egyptian cotton sheets, planning to sell them to Miami retirement homes, but this venture fails to produce results. At a funeral for a friend, David runs into his high school best friend Efraim Diveroli, who had moved to Los Angeles some years prior to work with his uncle selling guns. Efraim has left his uncle and formed his own company, AEY, which fills orders for arms placed by the US government due to the ongoing war in Iraq. David's life takes another turn when his girlfriend informs him that she is pregnant. Efraim offers him a job at AEY, and even though David and Iz both vehemently oppose the war, David eventually agrees, telling his girlfriend that he has begun selling his cotton sheets to the US government through Efraim's contacts.

Efraim explains to David that all orders placed for military equipment are posted on a public website where anyone can place bids on filling the orders, and their job is to find the small orders that larger contractors do not bother with and place bids on them, with these smaller orders still being worth millions of dollars. A local small business owner, Ralph Slutzky, assists the business with funding, under the false belief that AEY only sells arms to help protect Israel. Eventually, David and Efraim land a contract to provide several thousand Beretta pistols to the Iraqi Police in Baghdad, a deal that would put them on the map. Unfortunately, an Italian embargo blocks the shipment to Iraq, so Efraim attempts to route the shipment through Jordan, but the shipment gets held up there as well. Iz is upset after learning the nature of David's true business after overhearing a conversation between him and Efraim. David and Efraim fly to Jordan to free up their cargo or risk being blacklisted by the US Government for failing to deliver.

In Jordan, Efraim manages to bribe some locals to free up the Beretta shipment, but are still not allowed to fly the cargo to Baghdad without a permit that would take several weeks to acquire. The Berettas are loaded onto a truck and the two are provided with a driver who offers to drive them across the border to Iraq which requires no permit. The trio drive through the night, at one point having to bribe a surprise border patrol with two cartons of cigarettes, and later being pursued by armed insurgents while trying to get gas, but eventually safely arrive at the military base. Captain Santos receives the shipment with delight and expresses how impressed he is that David and Efraim drove through the Triangle of Death to deliver the goods; the two are subsequently paid handsomely for their work.

Bolstered by their success, AEY continues to secure larger deals and make more money, even moving into a larger office and hiring more employees, and David's daughter Ella is born. Efraim, however, continues to grow more unstable and untrustworthy, as the company is suddenly given a chance to land their biggest deal yet. Known as "The Afghan Deal", the US Government wishes to arm the Afghan military for the long term, and posts a massive order worth $300 million, which includes 100 million rounds of AK-47 ammunition and would have netted the duo a $100 million profit. Filling this order proves to be near-impossible for a two-man operation, particularly as there is a global shortage on AK-47 ammunition, but the two end up lucking into an encounter with legendary US arms dealer Henry Girard. Girard has access to the massive weapon depots that were created in Albania but never used, and must now be disposed of in accordance with NATO treaties, which includes well over a hundred million rounds of AK-47 ammunition. Girard cannot directly deal with the US Government anymore, due to being on a watchlist, and wants to make the deal through AEY. Efraim agrees, although David expresses discomfort working with a man who is on a terrorist watchlist.

The two go to Albania to confirm that the ammunition works, then place the winning bid on the contract—though Efraim is upset to learn that they underbid their competitors by $53 million, greatly reducing their potential profits. Meanwhile, Iz grows frustrated with David's continuing string of lies about his work, and leaves to live with her mother. While in Albania to prepare the shipment, David discovers that virtually all of the rounds are Chinese-made and illegal due to a US embargo against Chinese arms. Efraim comes up with the idea of re-packaging the rounds in plastic bags and cardboard boxes, pretending that they are concerned about the weight of the shipments (though it inadvertently does save $3 million in shipping costs). While the ammunition is repackaged and shipped, Efraim learns that Henry charged them a 400% markup (10 cents on 2.5 cents) on the rounds, and wants to cut him out of the deal. David protests that they are all making great money, but Efraim destroys the only copy of his partnership contract with David and proceeds with his plan to cut Henry out.

Henry retaliates by having David kidnapped from his hotel room, beaten and held at gunpoint before leaving him alive, though David is left wondering if his now-missing Albanian driver, Bashkim, has been killed. David later learns that Efraim did not pay the $100,000 promised to Enver, the Albanian who is handling the repackaging.

David returns to Miami, where he tells Efraim that he is quitting AEY and demands immediate payout of the $4 million owed for his work-to-date, and even offers to settle for $1.6 million, but Efraim refuses and laughs about the partnership contract being gone. David returns to working as a massage therapist and convinces Iz to move back in with him by telling her the truth about his AEY work. Weeks later, Efraim and Ralph Slutzky meet with David. Efraim offers David a paltry severance package of $200,000, angering David who responds by threatening to blackmail him with evidence he has of multiple falsified documents they created to look like a respectable company in order to win the Afghanistan contract. Shortly afterwards, David and Efraim are arrested by the FBI who had been contacted by Enver, disgruntled after being unpaid for the repackaging contract and understanding the implications of violation of the arms embargo. Previously, the FBI had arrested Ralph who agreed to wear a wire in a meeting with David and Efraim, supplying the FBI with solid testimony to arrest them. Efraim is sentenced to four years in prison for numerous crimes related to conspiracy and fraud on the Afghan deal while David gets seven months' house arrest in exchange for co-operating with the investigation.

Months later, David meets with Henry who apologizes for the kidnapping and assault in Albania, claiming he had bad information. He also thanks David for not mentioning his name in his confession to the FBI. David begins to ask questions about the events of the deal, including the fate of Bashkim. In response, Henry opens a briefcase full of money, a part of his own cut from the Afghan deal, and offers it to David in exchange for "no more questions". The movie ends before David decides.


Miles Teller (top) portrays David Packouz (bottom)


Initially, Jesse Eisenberg and Shia LaBeouf were set to star in the film;[19] however, Jonah Hill and Miles Teller were eventually cast.[14][15] Further casting was announced in early 2015, with Ana de Armas joining in February,[16] and JB Blanc joining in March.[18] Screenwriter Stephen Chin based many of the incidents on his own experiences in Iraq.[20]


Shooting was initially set to begin late April 2015, in Miami, for several weeks.[21] According to SSN Insider, filming began on March 2, 2015.[22] Later confirmed by the Business Wire on March 17, 2015, filming was underway in Romania.[23] On April 24, 2015, Hill was spotted on the film set in the Century City district of Los Angeles.[24] On April 29, 2015, Hill and Teller were spotted filming on the set in Burbank, California.[7][25] On May 7, 2015, filming took place in Miami.[26]


Warner Bros. originally set the film a release date for March 11, 2016.[27] However, in November 2015, the release date was moved to August 19, 2016.[28]

Box office[edit]

War Dogs grossed $43 million in North America and $43.2 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $86.2 million, against a budget of $40 million.[4]

In the United States and Canada, War Dogs was released on August 19, 2016, alongside Ben-Hur and Kubo and the Two Strings, and was projected to gross $12–15 million from 3,100 theaters in its opening weekend.[29] The film made $1.3 million from its Thursday night previews and $5.5 million on its first day (including previews). It went on to gross $14.3 million in its opening weekend, finishing third at the box office and first among new releases.[30]


Critical response[edit]

War Dogs received mixed reviews from critics.[31] On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 60%, based on 221 reviews with an average rating of the 6/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "War Dogs rises on the strength of Jonah Hill's compelling performance to take a lightly entertaining look at troubling real-world events."[32] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 57 out of 100, based on 41 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[33] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.[34]

ScreenCrush's Matt Singer said, "Superficially, the movie looks a lot like past Phillips comedies about men behaving badly, with dirty jokes and wacky hijinks galore. But War Dogs is more critical of its protagonists’ behavior, and there’s plenty of sad commentary about the state of modern America."[35]

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky of The A.V. Club had misgivings about the film's slant and biographical omissions, writing: "One might quibble with the way Phillips limits responsibility on the Pentagon deal by painting AEY as better businessmen than they actually were [...], while avoiding the darker sides of the story..."[36] Matt Zoller Seitz of RogerEbert.com, in a mixed-to-negative review, stated that "War Dogs is a film about horrible people that refuses to own the horribleness."[37]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Gleiberman, Owen (August 16, 2016). "Film Review: 'War Dogs'". Variety. Retrieved October 25, 2016.
  2. ^ "WAR DOGS (15)". British Board of Film Classification. July 19, 2016. Retrieved July 19, 2016.
  3. ^ FilmL.A. (May 2017). "2016 Feature Film Study" (PDF). FilmL.A. Feature Film Study. Retrieved July 4, 2017.
  4. ^ a b "War Dogs (2016)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved November 26, 2016.
  5. ^ "The Stoner Arms Dealers: How Two American Kids Became Big-Time Weapons Traders". Rolling Stone. 2011-03-16. Retrieved 2016-07-08.
  6. ^ "Arms and the dudes". Amazon.com. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  7. ^ a b Evry, Max (April 30, 2015). "Arms & the Dudes: First Photos of Jonah Hill and Miles Teller on the Set". comingsoon.net. Retrieved May 10, 2015.
  8. ^ Bill Zwecker (2016-08-14). "Miles Teller, Jonah Hill learned how to become 'War Dogs'". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved 2016-08-16.
  9. ^ Richard Roeper (2016-08-16). "Jonah Hill, Miles Teller armed and hilarious in slick 'War Dogs'". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved 2016-08-16.
  10. ^ Andrew O'Hehir (2016-08-16). "Bros in the heart of darkness: Jonah Hill and Miles Teller's "War Dogs" is a scathing indictment of Dick Cheney's America". Salon. Retrieved 2016-08-16.
  11. ^ Ito, Robert (2016-08-12). "Guns. Money. Iraq. And Then a Screenplay for 'War Dogs.'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-08-29.
  12. ^ "War Dogs (2016)". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2017-01-08.
  13. ^ "2017 Golden Globes: full list of nominations". The Guardian. 12 December 2016. Retrieved 13 December 2016.
  14. ^ a b Kit, Borys (December 3, 2014). "Jonah Hill to Star in Crime Comedy 'Arms and the Dudes'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 4, 2014.
  15. ^ a b Fleming Jr, Mike (February 12, 2015). "'Whiplash' Star Miles Teller Joins Jonah Hill In 'Arms And The Dudes'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 16, 2015.
  16. ^ a b Hipes, Patrick (February 13, 2015). "Ana De Armas Joins Dudes In 'Arms And The Dudes'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 16, 2015.
  17. ^ Truitt, Brian (March 22, 2016). "Sneak peek: Arms trading goes awry in 'War Dogs'". USA Today. Retrieved August 4, 2016.
  18. ^ a b Pedersen, Erik (March 5, 2015). "IFC Films Locks Up 'Stanford Prison Experiment'; JB Blanc Joins 'Arms And The Dudes' — Film Briefs". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 7, 2015.
  19. ^ Sneider, Jeff (December 3, 2014). "Miles Teller Eyed to Join Jonah Hill in Todd Phillips' 'Arms and the Dudes'". TheWrap. Retrieved December 4, 2014.
  20. ^ "The Frame | 'War Dogs' screenwriter: Driving through Iraq's 'triangle of death' was easier than dealing with studio heads | 89.3 KPCC". Scpr.org. 2016-08-22. Retrieved 2017-01-08.
  21. ^ "Jonah Hill's New Dark Comedy "Arms and the Dudes" to Film in Miami". onlocationvacations.com. February 24, 2015. Retrieved February 25, 2015.
  22. ^ "On the Set for 3/2/15: Matthew McConaughey & Gugu Mbatha-Raw Start 'Free State of Jones', 'Kickboxer' Wraps & More". ssninsider.com. March 2, 2015. Retrieved March 7, 2015.
  23. ^ "Shooting Begins on "Arms & the Dudes"". businesswire.com. March 17, 2015. Retrieved March 17, 2015.
  24. ^ "Jonah Hill's battle with his weight continues as he shows a much heavier frame while filming Arms And The Dudes". dailymail.co.uk. April 25, 2015. Retrieved May 10, 2015.
  25. ^ Molinet, Jason (April 30, 2015). "Jonah Hill spotted on set of latest movie looking noticeably heavier". nydailynews.com. Retrieved May 10, 2015.
  26. ^ "Jonah Hill displays his portly physique and totes an automatic rifle as he films new comedy Arms and the Dudes in Miami". dailymail.co.uk. May 7, 2015. Retrieved May 10, 2015.
  27. ^ A. Lincoln, Ross (May 19, 2015). "'The Accountant', 'Project XX', And More Get Release Dates". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved May 23, 2015.
  28. ^ Anthony D'Alessandro. "Warner Bros. Moves Todd Phillips' 'Arms & The Dudes' To Summer". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 2015-11-14.
  29. ^ "'Ben-Hur' remake likely won't be able to topple 'Suicide Squad' at the box office". Los Angeles Times.
  30. ^ "'Suicide Squad' Holding No. 1 Turf; 'War Dogs' & 'Kubo' In Staring Contest; 'Ben-Hur' Crashing". Deadline Hollywood.
  31. ^ "'War Dogs' Critical Roundup: Reviews Praise Jonah Hill in Uneven Action Comedy". IndieWire. August 18, 2016. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
  32. ^ "War Dogs (2016)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved January 17, 2019.
  33. ^ "War Dogs Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved August 26, 2016.
  34. ^ "CinemaScore". cinemascore.com.
  35. ^ Singer, Matt (August 16, 2016). "'War Dogs' Review: Todd Phillips' Best Movie Since 'The Hangover'". ScreenCrush. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
  36. ^ Vishnevetsky, Ignatiy (Aug 18, 2016). "The gun-running true story War Dogs is all bark, no bite". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 18 August 2016.
  37. ^ Seitz, Matt Zoller (Aug 17, 2016). "War Dogs". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved 18 August 2016.

External links[edit]