Director Todd Phillips, a man generally responsible for slob comedies like The Hangover and Old School, goes a more serious, satirical route with this one. The results are mixed, but it’s ultimately entertaining.
Based on an article in Rolling Stone magazine that described real-life gun-runners who bilked the government and screwed each other over, the film plays out as a sort of The Wolf of Wall Street with weapons and Albania instead of stocks and the Financial District. Contributing to that Wolf vibe would be Jonah Hill (who stars in both) playing Efraim Diveroli, a diabolical, narcissistic weapons dealer who puts profit before morality and friendship.
Even though Hill throws in an annoying laugh that should’ve been discouraged, the core of his performance is still funny, and brutal when it needs to be. Miles Teller plays his partner, David Packouz, a massage therapist who can’t keep his career in line and needs to straighten out fast—especially because he has a kid on the way with his wife, Iz (Ana de Armas, far less scary here than when she was torturing Keanu Reeves in Knock Knock).
The film is at its best when the two are delivering a shipment of guns to Iraq on the ground in a beat up truck. Both Hill and Teller are good here, even when the film treads into familiar territory. This isn’t a great movie, but especially in a summer that’s stunk, it’s one of the season’s better ones.