Trailers for War Dogs, the new dramedy from Todd Phillips, director of The Hangover, proudly declare the film as being based on a "true story." Yes, the movie about two dudes from the U.S. who enter into the business of arms-dealing in the Middle East is inspired by real events, and while that fact isn't all that surprising, what is surprising is the idea that the two main characters, David (Miles Teller) and Efraim (Jonah Hill), are based on real people. In trailers, they seem like out of control thrill seekers, dealing in big money and even bigger guns with little experience. And yet, the War Dogs guys are real — very real. In fact, one of the real men who inspired the film, David Packouz, even has a cameo appearance in the film (he's credited as "Singer at Hilldale").
Now that you know that the War Dogs characters are based on real people, you're probably thinking that the real story could not be as wacky as the movie makes it look. Filled with sex, drugs, and money, War Dogs makes the ugly business of war seem glamorous — not entirely unlike the kind of extravagant debauchery seen in The Hangover films. And, yet, for the real life Packouz and Efraim Diveroli, this movie is apparently pretty close to their reality.
War Dogs is inspired by a 2011 article published by Rolling Stone and written by Guy Lawson titled "The Stoner Arms Dealers" about Packouz and Diveroli. Lawson later followed up that article with his 2015 book, Arms and the Dudes. And the story of the film is pretty accurate to that told by Lawson. In 2007, Packouz and Diveroli, old friends from yeshiva days in Miami, won a $300 million contract with the government to get ammunition to Afghan troops. "Working with nothing but an Internet connection, a couple of cellphones and a steady supply of weed, the two friends... had beaten out Fortune 500 giants... to score the huge arm contract," wrote Lawson in his article.
Both in their early-mid twenties, Diveroli and Packouz were relatively new to the scene of arms dealing. Diveroli had experience, having learned from his uncle when he was a teenager, but Packouz had none. (Packouz worked as a masseur prior to joining Diveroli's AEY arms dealing company, a detail also seen in the film.) The two were successful for a time, pocketing millions with vaguely illegal dealings and gun runs, but, eventually, mistakes and enemies led to their downfall.
After trying to sell Chinese ammo — a no no under their government contract — Diveroli and Packouz found themselves on the receiving end of a Pentagon investigation and on the wrong side of a couple exposés. Packous, Diveroli, and a few of their associates were all charged with accounts of fraud, and later Packouz was sentenced to house arrest while Diveroli was sentenced to four years in jail.
Granted, the entire ordeal is not as simple or easy as it sounds. What it is, however, is crazy and surreal — just crazy enough to make one hell of a movie.
Images: Warner Bros Pictures