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Film / War Dogs

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It's not about being pro-war; it's about being pro-money.

War Dogs is a 2016 Based on a True Story caper movie starring Jonah Hill, Miles Teller, Bradley Cooper and Ana de Armas, and directed by Todd Phillips. Based on the Rolling Stone article "Arms and the Dudes" by Guy Lawson, it follows twentysomething gunrunners David Packouz and Efraim Diveroli as they exploit The War on Terror for personal profit.

War Dogs provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Actor Allusion: Jonah Hill once again gets someone who's involved in a big illegal money scheme dealing with a Eastern European country in trouble and fires an employee in a company that does illegal stuff over a petty reason, though it's just a normal firing compared to eating one's fish.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Zigzagged based on this photo of the real David and Efraim.
  • A.K.A.-47: While Beretta is referred to directly, its Brazilian copy, the Taurus PT99, is called "Corvis TP19" in the movie.
  • Annoying Laugh: Efraim, as one of his Hate Sink qualities.
  • Arms Dealer: David and Efraim are Corporate Lobbyists and pretty shady ones at that; David notes that they didn't have a bookkeeper in their early years, and when it came time to be audited by the federal government in order to secure a contract, they had to falsify their records. Henry Girard is an established legend in the field.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: All of the “Albanians” are actually speaking Romanian. This could be a subtle Shout-Out to Borat where all of the people minor characters speaking “Kazakh” are actually speaking Romanian.
  • Bad Boss: Efraim becomes this after the Beretta Deal, starting off by firing a prospect employee over the correct full name of IBM. He later one ups this by destroying the partnership agreement on Christmas Eve, which lands David in hot water from Henry Girard and his Albanian thugs, Misblamed who assumed he cut him out of the Afghan Deal. Then, when David returns to AEY's offices and demands his cut from the Deal note , Efraim tells him he earned 0 cents on the dollar, prompting David to tell him that he has 2 weeks to give him his money or he'll sue him, though Efraim tells David that Warren is his lawyer as well, causing David to throw the golden grenade at him in a fit of rage. And that's not even getting into almost firing the entire AEY office over something as trivial as a Christmas Eve break from work or him trying to bang his latest Cuban girl conquest in LIV while David is freezing his butt off in Albania doing all the work on shipping the 100 million rounds of AK-47 ammo for the Afghan Deal.
  • Biopic: The film chronicles the rise and eventual Downfall of David, Efraim, and their company AEY, Inc. Their downfall, brought on by selling illegal Chinese weapons to the U.S. government, is relatively soft, however; Efraim gets four years in prison, David gets seven months' house arrest, and AEY, Inc. will be able to bid on defense contracts again by 2022.
  • Comically Small Bribe: After their falling out, Efraim later tries to get David to agree to end things amicably by offering him $200,000 over four years. He's acts like he's being reasonable and is offended when David doesn't take it. For reference, David was entitled to four million but was willing to take 1.6 million, meaning Efraim somehow believed David would be dumb enough to accept five percent of what he could have demanded.
  • Composite Character:
    • Specifically mentioned in a title card at the end done for dramatic purposes. For example, David and Efraim's vocal opposition to The War on Terror comes from an Adapted Out third player Alex Podrizki.
    • Henry Girard serves as an Expy for several contacts AEY had, most notably Heinrich Thomet note , who had been legally censured just like Girard, and was looking for access to lucrative contracts he was barred from, again like Girard.
  • Cool Shades: Henry Girard, who never takes off his sunglasses. Efraim is also a big fan of shades and tries to buy some off of the Jordanian smugglers. This overlaps with Sinister Shades.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The FBI agent with an entire raid team in the lobby of David and Efraim's apartment complex when the doors of the elevator David and Efraim are riding in opens.
    "Well, this saves us a trip."
  • Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat: Ephraim's pettiness and greed in refusing to pay Enver his $100,000 sum (less than he was actually saving them in shipping costs) results in him ratting them out. Had he just taken the small hit, he would have likely gotten away with no one the wiser.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
  • Fatal Flaw: Greed for Ephraim. He was making huge amounts of money off of the Albanian Deal, and likely would gave gotten away with it scott-free if he hadn't tried to squeeze just a little bit more cash out of it. First, he tries to cut Girard out of the deal after learning that he was charging them ten cents a round for ammunition he was getting for two-and-a-half cents per round. Then, he tried to screw the Albanians out of their $100,000 repackaging fee, which (in addition to allowing the deal to happen in the first place) was saving them rougly three million dollars on shipping costs.
  • Fat Bastard: Ephraim is very overweight and is portrayed as a greedy Jerkass.
  • Foreshadowing: We're twice shown how adeptly Ephraim lies on the phone, first imitating an Army officer and then lying to an Army officer. note  The third time, he does it to Dave, assuring him he'll stay away from Girard, as he walks into Dave's office and destroys their partnership agreement.
    • There is also a bit of a invokedGenius Bonus if you know your Cold War history. If you are aware of the Soviet-Albanian split and Albania's defection to China, you will know in advance that the duo's attempts to get AK rifles from Albania will not work out due to Albania getting their weapons from China, which has been sanctioned by NATO.
    • When David gives Efraim the contract making the promised 70-30 split official, he looks at it with displeasure before he signs it, making it clear even if the job had gone well, he was planning to screw over David from the start.
  • For Want Of A Nail: If Ephraim had just paid Enver the relatively small $100,000 repackaging fee for the rounds of ammunition they likely would’ve been Scot free.
  • Good-Times Montage: A brief one after David and Efraim's success fulfilling the Beretta deal.
  • Hollywood History:
    • David and Efraim never went to Iraq. note 
    • AEY actually does stand for something, specifically the first initials of Efraim and his two brothers.
    • Efraim was a big fan of Lord of War, not Scarface (1983).
  • Hypocrite: Efraim calls Marlboro a cheap motherfucker for nearly getting them all killed by stopping for gas in Fallujah because it's free. He screws over an incredibly dangerous arms dealer to make a slightly higher profit margin, and also doesn't pay Enver $100,000 even though he is saving their deal and saving them 30 times as much on shipping costs. He also gets upset when he learns that the aforementioned arms dealer is charging a huge markup on the ammo he's selling, vene though he's doing the exact same thing.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: The specific area of Iraq the boys run their Beretta shipment through is referred to as "the Triangle of Death." It is a REAL place. Even worse when David and Efraim find out they're in Fallujah.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: Said by Girard to David at the end.
  • Informed Judaism: Both David and Efraim are casual-to-lapsed Orthodox Jews.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Efraim neglecting to pay Enver who was the one who saved them from punishment for shipping Chinese ammo in the first place came back to bite him and David hard when he rats the two out to the Pentagon and FBI.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Efraim shows shades of being one early on; David describes him as a chameleon who's able to be whatever people want him to be. By the end of the film, after he's almost gotten him killed and tried to erase evidence of their partnership, David comes to the conclusion that he was never even his friend.
  • Mistaken for Prostitute: An occupational hazard David suffers as a masseur. And from male clients, too.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Efraim destroying the partnership agreement gives David the reason he needs to leave Albania and rebuild his relationship with Iz, after being kidnapped by Henry's boys, along with hearing that Enver and his guys haven't been paid by Efraim despite David assuring him that he'll wire the $100,000 US dollars to him after he returns to Miami.
  • No Ending: Henry Girard meets David at a hotel to make amends over Albania, where he was operating on "bad information." He opens a suitcase of money and offers it to David after David asked two questions and Girard warns "No more questions" after opting to not answer the ones David asked. The movie ends. We don't know if David took it or not.
  • Oh, Crap!: Several.
    • David's reaction to being kidnapped.
    • When the title card in Iraq says "Anbar Province." Followed shortly after by Marlboro shouting "Fallujah bad!"
    David: We stopped for gas in Fallujah?!
  • Only in Florida: They're from Miami.
  • Only in It for the Money: David's rationale for going into business with Efraim, despite his personal opposition to war, is that he needs the money to provide for his family.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Marlboro.
  • Pet the Dog: Henry apologizes to David for kidnapping him from his hotel room in Albania due to bad intel. Justified In-Universe, since it was Efraim who cut Henry out of the Afghan Deal, not David.
    • Efraim tries to do this with David, assuring him that he doesn't have to go back to Albania, since he hired a guy named Ivan who speaks Albanian, though David says he's done with AEY as a whole.
  • Race Lift: Zigzagged Spexico version with Iz, who's a Spaniard in real life but played by a Cubana in the movie.
    • This isn’t particularly egregious considering the actress, Ana de Armas, is a Cuban of Spanish descent.
  • Real-Person Cameo: The real David Packouz is the musician playing for the residents of the retirement home where David tries to sell his bedsheets. This doubles as an Actor Allusion as David's main goal in life was to become a rock star.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Captain Santos, the military officer overseeing the Beretta deal with AEY. He's (understandably) angry at a variety of shipping delays and most of AEY's antics, but cuts them some slack and congratulates them upon personally delivering the Berettas. (Of course, his apparent acceptance of AEY's apparently illegal actions shifts him more from "reasonable" to "uncaring.")
  • The Rich Have White Stuff: David and Iz move from their small, cramped apartment to a huge, all-white one when his business takes off.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In-Universe, Efraim has a poster and makes various references and homages to Scarface, a favorite film of his and David's childhood.
    • Efraim's speech to the AEY employees, including referencing the cars he and David have, is a shoutout to Ben Affleck's speech in Boiler Room which was in turn inspired by Glengarry Glen Ross.
  • The Smurfette Principle: The only female character is David's wife Iz, though there are other girls throughout the movie, but they are either minor background extras or small speaking roles. The only other female character is Emily who has her suspicions about Efraim and tries to warn David about him.
  • The Sociopath: Efraim certainly ticks most of the boxes by the end of the movie. He's superficially charming but completely self-obsessed, without any discernible moral scruples, manipulates everyone around him, and never expresses remorse for any of the damage he does. Dave even states that his real "genius" is being a social chameleon and becoming "the person you wanted him to be". Who he really is turns out to be a greedy, narcissistic hustler who betrays his best friend the moment Dave stands up to him, and it's implied that if he didn't actively plan on his betrayal of Girard also handily getting rid of Dave, he certainly doesn't care about that possibility once it's made aware to him.
    • Best expressed in their last scene together, where a distraught Efraim confesses to Dave how he's scared, doesn't know what to do, waxing nostalgic about seeing Scarface and thinking of them... only for Dave to immediately call him on his manipulative bullshit and ask, "Are you ever not acting?". It's kind of frightening how Efraim immediately drops the act, and nonchalantly admits that Scarface wasn't even on TV.
  • Spanner in the Works: Enver, an Albanian packaging plant owner, turns out to have an outsized role in AEY's fortune. Make sure you pay your subcontractors, folks.
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music: In his cameo, the real David Packouz is playing an acoustic version of Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear The Reaper" front of an audience of 70- and 80-something senior citizens at a retirement home.
  • Trailers Always Lie: Trailers for the film make it out to be more of a lighthearted buddy comedy in the vein of some of Todd Phillips' other directorial efforts, such as The Hangover trilogy. It's actually a drama along the lines of Blow, and Jonah Hill's character is portrayed not so much as a wacky scoundrel as much as an erratic, manipulative sociopath.
  • Wham Line: Literal example when Efraim admits that "Scarface wasn't even on TV last night." This confirms David's suspicion that Efraim was using him all along, and never really was his friend to begin with. David reacts by punching Efraim in the face and cussing him out...before both men are arrested by authorities as the elevator door opens.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: David outright states that his Albanian driver, Bashkim, just up and disappeared off the face of the earth. He asks Henry Girard directly if he had something to do with this, implying he was killed, but Girard just states, "no more questions" and the movie ends.