Directed by John Michael McDonagh
Starring Alexander Skarsgard, Michael Pena, Theo James, Tessa Thompson
Released on 7th October 2016
Where on earth do I start?
A quick look at the poster for War On Everybody makes it pretty obvious that this a buddy comedy, and a cop comedy into the bargain. But hang on. What’s that name at the foot of the poster? John Michael McDonagh? The director of The Guard and the brilliant Calvary? The Guard showed us he had a dark sense of humour, while Calvary was biting and bleak and was also one of my favourite films of 2014.
Well, he’s decided to get the comedy thing out of his system with War On Everyone, and he’s gone to Hollywood to do it. It’s a far cry from the small town Ireland in his other two films. Alexander Skarsgard and Michael Pena are two rogue cops – their names are actually Bob and Terry, but McDonagh has chosen to overlook they’re also the names of the legendary Likely Lads. Likely these two most certainly are not: they’re more into corruption, Skarsgard is also heavily into booze, and money goes down a treat with both of them. So when they come across a lucrative robbery, they use an informant on the inside to get their hands on the loot. The digger they deep, the seedier and more corrupt it gets. And it’s safe to say this will not be one my favourites of 2016.
If there’s anything about the film that works, it’s Skarsgard’s taste for Glen Campbell songs. Wherever he goes, he checks out the available music to see if his hero is on the playlist. Campbell is the mainstay of the soundtrack and his squeaky clean style of country is the perfect contrast to the foul mouthed action on the screen. He’s also played at full blast in the Skarsgard’s car.
Ah, yes, that car. The one he loves, because it’s indestructible and the way he drives it needs to be. The opening chase makes you think you’re watching Starsky and Hutch for 2016, but in a blue car. But the 70s pin-ups would never have behaved like this. For the first half hour or so, their offensive style of humour – you laugh, but you feel guilty about it – has some shock value and produces chuckles and the occasional guffaw. But, as the film progresses, it becomes very apparent that this is a one joke movie and it soon wears painfully thin.
This kind of comedy simply isn’t McDonagh’s forte. The two central characters are just mucky-mouthed anti-heroes and nothing much more, despite their brand of humour and Pena’s love for spouting philosophy at top speed. The villains are marginally more interesting, the best one being creepy club owner Birdwell (Caleb Landry Jones), who’s eccentric and unnerving.
Despite the guilty laughs, War On Everyone makes you wonder what on earth McDonagh thought he was doing. And wishing he hadn’t.
War On Everyone is released in cinemas on Friday, 7 October and reviewed on Talking Pictures on Thursday, 6 October.