This is one of those movies that’s not flat-out bad, but it very frustrating in that there’s clearly a better movie in there, desperately trying to get out, but being squashed by so many things – the director, the script, the visuals, etc.
The (true) story here is incredibly interesting, and could make for profound commentary on the military-industrial complex, on American capitalism, war profiteering, so many things…but is instead transformed into a bro-comedy in the vein of the director’s previous efforts, the “Hangover” series. There’s even an awkward sentimental lesson about telling the truth to one’s partner (who didn’t actually exist in real life – one of the many falsehoods of the film) carelessly mashed into the vastly more compelling true story of the life of David Packouz.
The falsehoods inserted the life of the other main character, Efraim Diveroli, are less Hollywood-esque distortions of the truth, instead being an amusing anecdote. Apparently the real Diveroli refused to meet Jonah Hill to discuss the part, so Hill (of slender frame at the time) intentionally gained a lot of weight, so Diveroli would appear in the film as a very overweight figure. That’s more amusing than a lot of the actual gags in the film.
Still, it’s not all bad by any means. The actual events the film depicts are interesting enough to keep the film relatively engaging even with all the weaknesses (like the very flat and bland direction). Perhaps the greatest crime of the film isn’t for turning a hugely interesting story into a bad film, but rather in just turning it into a forgettable one. I give it two and a half rounds of AK-47 ammunition, and an unsold bedsheet.