Two young guns talk their way into the arms business, writes Dominic Corry.

In wardogs, double Oscar nominee Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street) and Miles Teller (Whiplash) play 20-something pals in Miami who blag their way into the high-stakes, big-money world of international arms trading. It's a pretty far-fetched set-up that happens to be true.

Based on a 2011 Rolling Stone article entitled "Arms and the Dudes", War Dogs chronicles how Efraim Diveroli (Hill) and David Packouz (Teller) exploited a loophole to score government contracts to supply weapons and ammunition to the American military.

Miles Teller and Jonah Hill star in the film War Dogs.
Miles Teller and Jonah Hill star in the film War Dogs.

"There's definitely something enticing about watching people make it rich without following the rules," Hill tells TimeOut in Los Angeles. "It's why I've always loved gangster movies ... movies where the guys with swagger win. Until they don't."

"It's a cool story," Teller adds. "You have to respect what they were able to do; at one point, they had a $300 million deal going. That's an insane amount of money for a couple of guys in their early 20s, who were just fakin' it till they made it. It's fascinating how things can kind of snowball and you can get in way over your head."

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As anyone who lives on planet Earth is undoubtedly aware, guns are something of a hot potato in America, and both Teller and Hill visibly bristle when the subject of gun control comes up.

"That took a heavy turn," Hill says, only half-joking. "To these characters, it didn't matter that it was guns, it really could've been any way to make money very quickly within a loophole."

"I think these guys saw a loophole and exploited it," Teller adds. "And I think you can understand one guy's maybe getting greedy with it; the other guy's just really trying to support the family. They meet in the middle, it takes them on this wild journey but there is a big grey area and, if anything, these guys help shape that conversation or at least bring it to the forefront."

The film sees Packouz and Diveroli get into some dicey situations during their adventures in unrestricted capitalism, but it also shows Diveroli exhibiting plenty of the "swagger" that Hill references, while also wielding a machine gun. Does the actor think the film glamourises guns?

War Dogs is the latest in a long line of films in which Jonah Hill has portrayed a real-life person, following efforts like Moneyball and The Wolf of Wall Street.
War Dogs is the latest in a long line of films in which Jonah Hill has portrayed a real-life person, following efforts like Moneyball and The Wolf of Wall Street.

"I don't think so," Hill says. "I mean, I would hope it doesn't, you know. Because I don't think it's cool to glamourise guns.

"But I think these guys, that character, was very comfortable around guns. I think Efraim used guns in a way to show that he was an alpha male or that he was confident or something.

"Efraim's kind of a crazy character, so I think it shows how insane it is that this guy is trying to buy some weed, then all of a sudden he's pulling out a machine gun in a dangerous neighbourhood in Miami. It's really just showing how extreme a person he is."

"I don't go into any role where I feel like I have to glorify every decision this person makes," adds Teller.

"But as an actor you know you just wanna be able to understand it, and so really it's just getting sense of where these guys were at in their life and why they would do these things. Hopefully you can come to a place of acceptance, and then get on your guy's side. You can judge him afterwards."

War Dogs is the latest in a long line of films in which Hill has portrayed a real-life person, following efforts like Moneyball and The Wolf of Wall Street. Does that add an extra layer of pressure to the performance?

"By the time you start you just have to understand that you're playing a character and you have to service the director and the movie as best you can.

"It's exciting to think that things you're doing actually happened, and it helps you to really try to focus on being authentic.

War Dogs sees Packouz and Diveroli get into some dicey situations during their adventures in unrestricted capitalism.
War Dogs sees Packouz and Diveroli get into some dicey situations during their adventures in unrestricted capitalism.

"But other than that, by the time you're in you're just playing this character that you've read in the script."

Although the real Diveroli wasn't willing to meet the film-makers, the real Packouz was, which Teller says was helpful, to a point.


"You're talking about a guy who's gonna have a lot of opinions," he tells TimeOut.

"He lived it so he's gonna wanna give you a bunch of stuff. But what I've realised from playing real-life people is that most of the time they don't have the best perspective on themselves.

"So you know, you take it all in and then you're making a movie."

Low down


Who:

Jonah Hill and Miles Teller


What:

War Dogs, based on the true story of Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz


When:

In cinemas from August 18