Miles Teller and Jonah Hill are all grown up in War Dogs. Director Todd Phillips, too. Teller left any signs of his snide teen dystopia days and Hill the goof from Superbad and the pair of 21 Jump Street flicks, while the only thing Phillips brought along from his going, going, gone Hangover trilogy was the brooding of guy played by Bradley Cooper.
No, the guy calling the shots on the script written by Phillips, Stephen Chin and Jason Smilovic took his two main men down the twisting, turning, frantic lane of action more familiar to the tone of The Wolf of Wall Street or American Hustle, with a smidgen of The Big Short for good measure.
And then there’s the poster on the wall of the office of Efraim Diveroli. It’s from Al Pacino’s classic Scarface. There’s some of that Badlands bravura in Hill’s performance, yes.
Here’s the tale, if you haven’t yet heard. It really happened. Teller’s David Packouz was schlepping his massage table around Miami eking out a living but dreaming of bigger things for he and his soon-to-tell-him they’re expecting honey Iz, played with much likeable earnestness and honesty by Ana de Armas. He discovers that selling better sheets to senior centers is not it when long-lost high school Yeshiva bad boy pal Diveroli walks into a funeral service and asks to talk.
He’s got a better business plan for his former bestie. Under the name of a company AEY, he scours the Internet for “crumbs” listed amid the big pies by the U.S. Government after the Bush administration got busted for too many no-bid contracts.
Hill is magnificent as a guy who can talk his way into and out of just about anything. He gets David over his anti-War stance and into the legal scheme. A little lie to Iz about the bids being for those sheets that are clogging up their apartment does it for her objections.
Then it all snowballs, wonderfully, thrillingly for them and the few of us in the audience for a 4:20 p.m. Friday showing in a Regal Cinemas’ chain big theater in the Syracuse mega shopping, dining and entertainment complex Destiny USA.
Teller is tops, squirming to keep up with the demands of the bigger crumbs, bigger money, huge pie and increasingly dishonest relationship with his beloved.
The duo’s trips, to Jordan and Iraq and then Albania, are amazing scenes, indeed.
Over there in a snowy warehouse with more than a million bullets he’s trying to repackage so Uncle Sam doesn’t know they’re giving them Chinese ammunition to send to Afghanistan, David gets annoyed that Efraim’s dancing his nights away back in Miami.
And when it starts to unravel and truly come down, when Efraim’s true personality emerges from his complex heap of personas, David finally opens his eyes and soul, too.
Interesting, mature, very, all of it.
Do you more prefer the work of Miles Teller or Jonah Hill, and why? Were you a fan of ‘The Hangover,’ and why or why not? ‘The Wolf of Wall Street,’ ‘American Hustle,’ ‘The Big Short’ or ‘Scarface’ for you, and why?