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, as well as Efraim Diveroli’s memoir Once a Gun Runner as outlined in an ongoing lawsuit.
Lawson then wrote a book titled Arms and the Dudes detailing the story.
The film follows two arms dealers, Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz, who receive a U.S. Army contract to supply ammunition for the Afghan National Army worth approximately $300 million.
The film is heavily fictionalised and dramatised, 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.
In 2005, David Packouz is a massage therapist living in Miami, Florida with his girlfriend Iz. David spends his life savings on high-quality bedsheets to resell to retirement homes, but the venture fails. David runs into his old friend Efraim Diveroli, who has formed his own company, AEY, selling arms to the US government for the ongoing war in Iraq. Iz informs David she is pregnant, and Efraim offers him a job at AEY; although David and Iz vehemently oppose the war, David joins AEY and lies to Iz.
Efraim explains that military equipment orders are posted on a public website, and their job is to bid for small orders ignored by larger contractors but still worth millions. Local businessman Ralph Slutzky provides them funding, under the false belief that AEY only sells arms to protect Israel. David and Efraim land a contract to provide several thousand Beretta pistols to the Iraqi Police in Baghdad, but an Italian embargo blocks the shipment, which is waylaid in Jordan. Failing to deliver the cargo as promised would mean that AEY would be blacklisted from any future contracts. Meanwhile, Iz overhears the true nature of David’s business.
David and Efraim fly to Jordan, bribing locals to release the shipment, and are provided with a driver to transport them and the shipment into Iraq. The trio drive through the night, bribing a border patrol and evading armed insurgents, and arrive at the military base, where Captain Santos is impressed that they survived the Triangle of Death; the two are paid handsomely.
AEY secures larger and more lucrative deals, expanding their operation, and David’s daughter Ella is born, while Efraim grows more unstable and untrustworthy. The company has a chance at “The Afghan deal”, their biggest yet: the US government posts a massive order worth $300 million, which requires 100 million rounds of AK-47 ammunition and would net a $100 million profit. Facing a global shortage on AK-47 ammunition, the duo encounter legendary arms dealer Henry Girard, who has access to massive unused weapon depots in Albania. Needing to dispose of these arsenals – including over 100 million rounds of AK-47 ammunition – in accordance with NATO treaties, and unable to deal directly with the US, Girard offers to make the deal through AEY. Efraim agrees, despite David’s discomfort at working with a man on a terrorist watchlist.
The two go to Albania to test the ammunition and win the contract, though Efraim learns they severely underbid their competitors. Iz, frustrated with David’s lies, leaves to live with her mother. Preparing the shipment in Albania, David discovers virtually all the rounds are Chinese-made and illegal due to a US embargo; to conceal this, Efraim has the ammunition repackaged. Learning Henry has charged them a 400% markup, Efraim plans to cut him out of the deal, ignoring David’s protests and destroying the only copy of his partnership contract with David.
Henry retaliates by having David kidnapped, beaten, and threatened at gunpoint; David wonders if his missing Albanian driver, Bashkim, has been killed. David learns Efraim did not pay Enver, the Albanian handling the repackaging.
Returning to Miami, David quits AEY and demands the money he is owed, but Efraim refuses. David returns to working as a massage therapist and convinces Iz to move back in with him, telling her the truth about AEY. Weeks later, Efraim and Ralph offer David a paltry severance package, and David threatens Efraim with evidence of his falsified company documents. Shortly after, David and Efraim are arrested by the FBI, who had been contacted by the disgruntled Enver. The FBI had previously arrested Ralph, who wore a wire in an incriminating meeting with David and Efraim. 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 for his cooperation.
Months later, Henry apologises to David for abducting him in Albania and thanks him for not mentioning Henry to the FBI. David asks Henry about the events of the deal, including Bashkim’s fate, but Henry offers him a briefcase of money in exchange for “no more questions”. The movie ends, leaving David’s decision unclear.
- Filming began on 02 March 2015 in Romania.
- The film premiered in New York City on 03 August 2016 and was theatrically released by Warner Bros. Pictures on 19 August 2016.
- It received mixed reviews from critics and grossed $86 million.
- Jonah Hill received a Golden Globe nomination for his performance.
- While There’s a War There’s Hope (1974) and Lord of War (2005) are two films with similar subject and topic coverage.
Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): Todd Phillips.
- Producer(s): Mark Gordon, Todd Phillips, and Bradley Cooper.
- Writer(s): Stephen Chin, Todd Phillips, and Jason Smilovic.
- Music: Cliff Marinez.
- Cinematography: Lawrence Sher.
- Editor(s): Jeff Groth.
- Production: Joint Effort, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, and The Mark Gordon Company.
- Distributor(s): Warner Bros. Pictures.
- Release Date: 03 August 2016 (New York City).
- Running Time: 114 minutes.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.