War on Everyone: Film Review
Cast: Alexander Skarsgard, Michael Pena, Paul Reiser, Theo James, Tessa Thompson
Director: John Michael McDonagh
It's hard to work out if the writer / director of the sublime Calvary has his tongue firmly in his cheek in his first American film foray.
At times, War on Everyone, with its scuzzy OTT moments, appears to be parodying the 70s Cop shows that were so prevalent and so over the top with their characters and testosterone-filled leads. And yet, you're never quite sure if this was intentional or a pure drizzle of cinematic coincidence.
As it starts on a great philosophical question of "If you hit a mime with a car you're chasing him in, does he make a sound?", you could be forgiven for thinking this tale of two corrupt and nihilistic cops is going to do more than revel in its black humour.
Skarsgard and Pena play Monroe and Bolano respectively, who are one chastisement away from being kicked off the force because of their unconventional methods. But when they come face to face with tweed wearing Brit bad guy Lord Mangan (played by Theo James), the duo could have bitten more off than they can chew....
It's not as if War On Everyone doesn't have the McDonagh black humour trademarks scored through. With some truly off-kilter one-liners and some continual prodding of the Brits via an Irish character, the hallmarks are there for laughs.
But somehow, the delivery of the whole thing feels flat and at the end of the day, what should be steeped in irony and deliciously dead-pan ends up grating and frankly, at times, irritating as hell. The comic banter between the duo becomes annoying and tiresome as the satire falls flat and the film begins to drag.
For an American foray, McDonagh has his genre bases well covered and there are anarchic touches that are welcome throughout - it's almost as if it was a 70s cop TV show through a profanity laced filter.
As one character remarks, "You ain’t got a good script, you ain’t got shit". It seems an awfully meta touch from this criminal that really does hit the crux of the problem on the head. Whereas Calvary and The Guard were steeped in a dark delicious humour that delivered emotionally and cinematically, War on Everyone spends most of its time trying to beat you into submission like a moustachioed police officer trying to garner a confession from a crim.
It's not a fatal flaw for War on Everyone, but this lack of consideration over how it will sound on the screen does hold the film back from soaring and making you reflect on why films like Lethal Weapon and the buddy dynamic work so well.
Instead, this cop film deserves to be locked up - and McDonagh needs to be given a warning over its disjointed narrative and execution.