WAR ON EVERYONE (UK/16/98mins)
Directed by John Michael McDonagh. Starring Alexander Skarsgard, Michael Pena, Theo James, Tessa Thompson, Caleb Landry Jones
THE PLOT: Corrupt cops Terry (Alexander Skarsgard) and Bob (Michael Pena) celebrate their return from suspension by getting back to their old ways of extortion, bribery and generally breaking every law they can. When they cross paths with Lord Mangan (Theo James) however, it seems they have finally met their match.
THE VERDICT: After a turn toward drama with ‘Calvary’, John Michael McDonagh returns to drug fuelled comedy with War on Everyone; his first film not to be shot in Ireland or star Brendan Gleeson. Although McDonagh tries his best to make this absurd and over the top comedy work, the final result is puerile, offensive and unfunny.
Alexander Skarsgard leads the cast here as the vile and racist Terry. Walking with a hunch for much of the film, Skarsgard tries his best to make his double act with Michael Pena work, but since neither one takes the role of the straight man, and both try to be as offensive, racist and misogynistic as possible, this rarely works. Theo James plays an equally repellent character in Lord James Mangan, and succeeds in making the audience root against him, and Caleb Landry Jones plays Birdwell, a character who looks as though he was rejected from The Kinks and speaks almost unintelligibly. The rest of the cast features Tessa Thompson, David Wilmot, Malcolm Barrett, Derrick Barry and Keith Jardine.
The screenplay, written by John Michael McDonagh is, quite frankly, a mess. The only motivation for the characters appears to be the fact that they can get away with being abhorrent and racist, and although the film tries to be an equal opportunities offender – racist, misogynistic, homophobic and violent – the fact that the characters get away with being horrific human beings implies that their actions are OK and should be accepted. The dialogue is peppered with insults throughout, which start off as mildly amusing but quickly become tiresome. The story of the film is unintelligible, with drug dealing, murder and child abuse cropping up but barely being explored, so as well as being objectionable, the film makes little sense.
As director, McDonagh seems to have been inspired by music, and there are times when this works very well in the film – especially the John Cena Walkout Theme and Rhinestone Cowboy – but musical montages do not make for a strong film. Add to this explosions of violence and scenes that seem to have been inserted just for the sake of a joke – including a whole subplot of a trip to Reykjavik – which undermines the attempts at story throughout the film. As well as this, the pacing is a mess, characters are never truly explained and subplots are muddled and unclear.
In all, ‘War on Everyone’ is an objectionable film about corrupt cops. The film is puerile, tiresome and unfunny, although it tries valiantly to be a comedy. None of the cast particularly deliver and the pacing, story and delivery are a mess. ‘War on Everyone’ should have been McDonagh’s return to form, but is more disjointed and messy than ‘Calvary’, and that’s saying something.
Review by Brogen Hayes

  • filmbuff2011

    Having supposedly declared war on everyone in the Irish film industry with some controversial, much-discussed scathing comments during the release of Calvary, John Michael McDonagh has set out for pastures new with his third film – titled suitably enough War On Everyone.

    Set in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the story follows the fortunes of bad cop Bob (Michael Pena) and badder cop Terry (Alexander Skarsgard). Family Man Bob often makes disparaging remarks about his kids and is always quick with a quip, while Terry just wants to cause chaos and sit back to watch the messy results. Their boss Gerry (Paul Reiser) humours them, but he’s feeling the heat over their unorthodox methods. Their local snitch Reggie (Malcolm Barrett) tips them off to a racetrack robbery that leads to snivelling henchman Birdwell (Caleb Landry Jones) and his aristocratic boss Lord James (Theo James)…

    War On Everyone is three for three for McDonagh. As with his brother Martin, his writing has a sharp ear for snappy, no-nonsense dialogue featuring occasionally outrageous characters in somewhat unlikely situations. But that’s the beauty of it too – his writing is suitably laid-back and peppered with throwaway insults that fly past so quickly that you need to keep up with them. There’s also a sense that these characters might be irresponsible and a bit stupid, but they get the job done – sort of. War On Everyone features some great one liners and a surprising change of location at one point that gives the film an even more offbeat feel.

    As one of the characters says early on, it’s all about the story (a possibly self-referential moment there). Not entirely – it’s also about the actors who inhabit the characters. Skarsgard, replacing Garrett Hedlund, is a world away from Tarzan here. Terry is a real piece of work, but he somehow makes him funny and dangerous in equal measure. Pena, an often under-rated actor, is superb here as the straight guy to the loose cannon on deck. Their inter-play and rapport drives the film forward, but McDonagh also figures in some solid supporting turns from Reiser, Jones, Tessa Thompson and David Wilmot. Less certain is James, whose stylish villain is a bit one-note. But in a film of many delights, it’s a minor complaint. War On Everyone is sharp, violent, very funny and hugely likeable. Go see. ****

  • emerb

    John Michael McDonagh impressed with his directorial debut “The Guard” in 2011 and the even better “Calvary” in 2014. His latest movie, “War On Everyone”, is a spin on the buddy-cop movie genre but here he has left behind the Irish countryside and his twice leading man, Brendan Gleeson. This time the setting is New Mexico and a nattily dressed, unpredictable and bickering cop duo played by Michael Pena and Alexander Skarsgard. Set in the 1970’s style, it’s fast-paced and entertaining but not without its flaws.

    Terry Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård) and Bob Bolaño (Michael Peña) play two cheerfully corrupt cops with a rather unorthodox and dubious approach to tackling crime on the streets of Albuquerque. Completely disrespectful in the face of authority, the hard-drinking, wise-cracking pair brazenly blackmail, rob and beat up all the criminals on their turf and can be spotted a mile off, in their sharp suits and stylishly retro car. They work for precinct chief (Paul Reiser) who is forever giving them one final chance. Always after a quick buck and the centre of the plot is a bank robbery where they want a share of the cash. It’s being done
    by a crew under a villainous British lord James Mangan (Theo James) and his prissy, off the rocker sidekick Birdwell (Caleb Landry Jones). Our anti-heroes want to bust the criminals and keep the loot for themselves. However, their dangerous plan puts them in direct contact with the worst of the worst and it’s not long before they are in way over their heads. They find themselves resorting to snorting cocaine with a Muslim-converted, ex-con informant (Malcolm Barrett), depriving a crooked goon (Geoffrey Pomeroy) of his cash, his TV and his ex-stripper girlfriend (Tessa Thompson), destroying a strip club, punching someone’s eye out and taking a bizarre detour to Iceland. The only thing left to do is confront Mangan in a climatic showdown.

    Pena and Skarsgard play off each other very well in this crime caper, and this unlikely pairing is the real highlight of the film for me. Terry, defined by his chronic alcoholism and love of Glen Campbell, is excessively immoral and hates everybody. He’s racist, misogynist and despite his sturdy Swedish physique, Skarsgard slouches through most of the movie half-drunk and always up for a fight. The charming and talented Pena is always a pleasure to watch. His Bob makes for a fine foil as the family-man partner who’s far from clean himself. What makes them effective is the fact that they don’t care. We see them run over a drug-dealing mime, try to drown a jockey who cries when they ruin his toupee and even do cocaine off a bathroom baby-changing station. The other stars are clearly having fun too. Theo James (from the Divergent series) as louche British aristocrat scumbag James Mangan rises to the occasion surprisingly well here and at times he comes close to stealing the whole show.

    What works best about this film is the banter between our two corrupt protagonists and their wacky shenanigans but as much fun as it is watching Bob and Terry indulge in blackmail, frequent strip clubs and resort to using excessive force wherever necessary, there are problems and this movie is only a partial success. Some of the jokes become tiring (eg Pena cursing at his children is funny the first time but that joke soon feels stale), some scenes aren’t as funny to watch as they think they are and consequently the jokes fall flat. The biggest
    problem is that the ramshackle plot is neither clear nor cohesive (the illogical trip to Iceland borders on the ridiculous) and doesn’t build up the suspense. I thought this movie had more in common with Martin McDonagh’s “Seven Psychopaths” than, “Calvary” and “The Guard”. For me, as a comedy it’s certainly less effective than either of these. There are similarities between the style of this film and that of Quentin Tarantino in that it’s brazen, non-PC and quirky – Quaker bank robbers, tennis-playing women in burqas, a foot-massaging gangster, a Glen-Campbell-obsessed cop but yet it doesn’t wholly succeed for me. By the way, don’t go to this film if you’re sensitive, this movie is not for the easily offended. There is a slur for every minority group, nationality, class, religion, sex, even those affected by Down Syndrome or MS get a swipe. In fact, as the title says, this film is virtually a war on everyone so be prepared for mocking, beating and cutting down to size. While this movie is lacking in the sharp wit and smart execution of his previous two films, the appealing cast and comic energy could still bring in pretty decent commercial returns and I can see a sequel already being lined up. “War on Everyone” is
    an entertaining night out, it’s funny but I felt it could have been so much more.