War on Everyone

Year: 2016
Director: John Michael McDonagh

Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Michael Peña, Theo James, Tessa Thompson
Written by Tom Sheffield

Since its release, ‘War on Everyone’ has been a very divisive film amongst its audience. Some claim that it’s offensive for the sake of being offensive, others are praising it for its dark buddy cop perspective and slapstick action. Whilst I did really enjoy my viewing of the film at the cinema, as I sat and reflected on it writing this, I found myself disliking it more and more.

‘War on Everyone’ follows two corrupt cops who abuse their authority to bribe and blackmail the criminals they should be locking up. Terry Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård) is a “punch first ask questions later” kind of guy who doesn’t really care about the consequences of his actions; probably due to the fact he spends a large portion of his days drinking.  Bob Bolaño (Michael Peña) is the more intellectual of the two, often spouting random facts and making situations humorous with his quick wit and philosophical views. The pair find themselves meeting their match when they try to steal money that Lord James Mangan (Theo James), a typical charming British businessman/villain, had stolen from his rivals.

John Michael McDonagh wrote and directed this film, but one of my main gripes with the plot is that it attempts to lure you into to caring about Skarsgård and Peña’s characters later on in the film, when in all honesty we couldn’t really care less. McDonagh tries to justify Monroe and Bolaño’s corrupt actions with good intentions, when in actual fact they’re really just scumbags like the mobsters they shake down and the petty criminals they bribe. James Mangan is a contender for one of the worst villains in a film this year. The play on stereotypical British businessman/villain/psychopath was a bore and he brought nothing new to the table. He also was the sole focus in a scene that seemed to last an eternity; basically it was just him walking down some stairs in excruciatingly slow motion. I was expecting something to come of this slow scene but alas, there was no pay off.

There’s a hell of a lot of ‘chasing the perp’ scenes, a couple of which feel like they last longer than they really need to, but nevertheless they are highly entertaining and one of the highlights of the entire film for me. The film really struggles to keep focus around about the halfway mark, with the pair finding themselves in Iceland to find an informant. Whilst the snowy mountain scenery and attractive village shots in Iceland offer a nice break from the bleak, bland and often desolate streets of New Mexico, it’s a big leap in the story, and if the film has already lost your attention at this point then there’s a high chance you won’t have a clue what the hell is going on.

The scene transitions and background music gave the film a 90’s buddy cop vibe, and it adopted a lot of the tropes seen in TV shows or films of this genre. In particular, there were a lot of scenes which involved the duo sitting in a cramped car. These scenes rely on Peña’s humour and wit to keep your eyes on the screen, and Skarsgård doesn’t really have much dialogue, in fact he doesn’t really bring much to the table at all in these scenes, he just drives the car. When you compare the film to the likes of ‘The Nice Guys’, which was released this year and has a similar vibe, ‘War on Everyone’ just doesn’t meet the same level of humour, action or character likeability. Whilst this film isn’t Skarsgård or Peña’s finest hour, I think a bad script and the wrong choice of director could be to blame for what could have otherwise been a genuinely great twist to the buddy cop genre.

Overall I think this is a watch once film and there’s nothing about it that would make me want to watch it again. Whilst it got a few laughs out of me in the cinema, I think if I watched it again it wouldn’t keep my attention and I would probably find myself turning it off before the second act.

Tom’s rating: 6.5 out of 10
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