Corrupt cop duo Terry (Alexander Skarsgard) and Bob (Michael Pena) happily live a more than comfortable lifestyle framing and stealing from criminals in Albuquerque. However, evil British criminal “Lord” (Theo James) collides with the duo with hilarious and violent consequences.
For his third feature John Micheal McDonagh steps away from the Emerald Isle setting. Both The Guard and Calvary are unpredictable with a darkly comical edge and this is no different. War On Everyone is played much more for laughs and carries a hyper-realism sensibility.
As the foot-massaging police informant quips whilst watching a porn film – “If you ain’t got a good script, you ain’t got shit.” He’s not wrong, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a good plot. The film does not let itself get bogged down with plot or any real suspense as the witty script serves character, humour and unpredictable scenarios. This is not a criticism of the film as spending time with these irredeemable characters can be riotous fun and aims to shock with its very black humour.
This is a new and fresh spin on the overdone buddy-cop genre moved to Albuquerque rather than the original setting of London to avoid any Guy Ritchie comparisons. The pair cruise around in their blue Monte Carlo coupe, sporadically reporting to their overwrought superior played by Paul Reiser. There is a timeless quality as the genre is tackled with a comic perspective, but does have a clear seventies aesthetic. Whilst the setting is present day, apparently star Michael Pena didn’t realise the film wasn’t set in the seventies until halfway through filming.
Derivative genre scenes are given an inspired touch often flirting with the absurd. The film opens with Terry pondering “I’ve always wondered if you hit a mime, does he make a sound??” And he quickly get his answer. There is a ludicrous but comical
feud with the SWAT team and a uniquely soundtracked foot chase originating in a strip club.
In the words of the director it’s about irredeemable characters thinking about doing one good thing. You can feel the same humour running through the director’s brothers work in In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths. John Micheal McDonagh has frequently expressed the dislike of shots paying homage when you could come up with a unique new view but here there is evidence of Tarantino with the soundtrack especially in one particular scene as the evil British Lord wonders through a house of debauchery into a possible execution. Whilst the themes and plot owe much to The French Connection and Bad Lieutenant, the perverse humour and visual flair make this an original film.
The leads are great with perfect chemistry creating an outrageous double act and happily Skarsgard reminds us he can act after his lifeless Tarzan performance, he steals the show here as the muscular but tortured and corrupt lawman. “Lord” is typically evil, but it is his right hand man played by Caleb Landry Jones who steals the villain points as a disturbing and high pitched worm.
It’s not for everyone but if you are laughing out loud within the first few minutes then you are going to have a great time.