Two corrupt cops in New Mexico come up against a really big bad.
War on Everyone is the latest film from writer/director John Michael McDonagh after The Guard and Calvary. And it’s easily the worst of the three.
Maybe that’s partly because I had rather high hopes. McDonagh has been talking about the project for years and it sees him working with a higher budget, even bigger stars and in a new country. Plus the idea of a black comedy about two really terrible cops creating mayhem sounds like it’s right up his street.
The film does have its moments, as you’re more than aware of if you’ve seen the trailer. Leads Alexander Skarsgard and Michael Pena dive right into their parts and seem to relish every line of the script, backed up by an excellent cast including Paul Reiser, Tessa Thompson and Irish-fella David Wilmot.
It’s puerile and offensive by design (which is probably also McDonagh’s defense) and that’s fine as a way to get at a gag or two, with every possible creed and colour getting in on the abuse.
The problem is that there isn’t anything else going on. Everyone’s a ‘character’ without having any character, and the story is almost entirely missing. There’s no structure or progression and little sense of why we’re watching.
It doesn’t help that I’ve rarely seen a more vapid villain, with Divergent’s Theo James totally at sea in what’s supposed to be an utterly lecherous role. McDonagh piles on the hedonism to a ridiculous degree, including a self-indulgent and dull long take, but the character is impossible to take seriously.
Only three films in, and McDonagh has already managed to become a parody of himself with a style which was already borrowed from earlier filmmakers. War on Everyone’s biggest problem is that it thinks it's hip, smart and hilariously transgressive but it’s lacking the cool, collected comedy chops to pull it off.