Warner Bros. 114 Minutes R
Thanks to Jonah Hill and Miles Teller, this film, based on a true story, is funny, disgusting, tense, troubling but it’s also very watchable. They play two Miami 20 somethings who become players in international arms trade during the Iraq War and end up with a $300 million dollar deal to arm the Afghan Army. The story is based on a Rolling Stone article detailing the scam by these two greedy young guys.
Written Directed by Todd Phillips, (The Hangover trilogy) this buddy film feels confused. Is it a friendship or a commentary on the corruption in the Military-Industrial Complex? As a comedy and a drama, there are times when we felt guilty laughing at the absurdity of these “kids” scamming the government. You get a real peek at the shady international business of supplying countries with weapons.
David, played by Teller, is a masseur with a wife and baby on the way who is trying to make a buck selling a pile of bed sheets to make a killing when he runs into Efraim, played with evil relish by Jonah Hill.Efraim is a rich, fast-talking hot shot. The two young Jewish boys were in Yeshivah together and that history gave David cause to want to trust him. Bad move.
Hill says his character has a lot of swagger and is always making a deal, even when picking up a girl in a club. He’s the kind of guy who always believes he’s the smartest guy in the room and eventually it gets him into a whole lot of trouble.
David, played with sweet naïveté, takes the bait when Efraim paints a picture of power and money to be had working together buying snd selling arms for the US Government. You know that this can’t last, but the film shows the excitement and the danger running guns in a war zone trying to making a killing by selling carnage. It was especially dangerous when they blindly traveled Iraq’s Highway of Death.
Miles Teller says his Dad told him to contact Writer/Director Todd Phillips about the part. “My Dad texted me about Todd got rights to that movie and he told me you gotta tell Todd you’re the man for that." He did. And he does a very credible job. You see it all from David's point of view. As much as you get happy for what he thinks is success, you almost want to warn him when you see trouble coming. You especially feel for his wife Iz, played by Ana de Armas and their baby. She says Teller was easy and open to work with, even when they had to argue about what he was up to. De Armas is beautiful and convincing as the worried wife. Teller as David sacrifices the most during the film and it hurts watching Teller as David hurt.
Bradley Cooper, who plays the master arms trader Efraim looks up to, says Teller was the perfect David. He says it’s really a story about friendship and what someone will sacrifice for a friend. But we think it’s even more about trust.
Hill and Teller are particularly interesting when they have to negotiate to save their lives as well as their business. It gets pretty dicey. There is so much detail in each negotiation that we think it gets bogged down. Hill describes what the boys were trying to achieve was what some think is "The American Dream.” They were trying to make something big without following the rules. Hill says there’s something enticing about watching the bad guys win, especially when they’re young, inexperienced kids who think they’ve got it made.
Hill says Phillips doesn’t like to shoot on sound stages and thinks that shooting in foreign countries makes the film seem bigger. This is the most travel Teller says he’s ever done making any film. They went to Romania, Las Vegas, California, Miami, Morocco, El Centro and more countries. That’s what it took for the real guys to get enough bullets to supply an entire army and do it without it looking like the guns and ammo came from the US government.
Is this worth your bucks? Hill and Teller are convincing as the so called “friends” who get in way over the heads because they get greedy. The fascination for us is that, in a perverse way, we’re rooting for these two. And what’s even more fascinating, it actually happened. As Director Phillips says, “War is an economy.” Hill and Teller play characters who tried to corner the market. They were the perfect example of “Be Careful What You Wish For.”