War on Everyone
Cert: 15 / 98 mins / Dir. John Michael McDonagh / Trailer
Well. When a movie gets three separate walkouts in the first twenty minutes, you know it's doing something right. John Michael McDonagh's War On Everyone isn't so much boldly provocative as lazily insolent, a trait which proves, over the course of an hour and a half, to be both its best and worst points.
The setup goes: something something, dysfunctional cop-duo; something something, crime-lord; something something, do whatever it takes to get the job done including swearing a lot and shooting everybody. With the best will in the world, there's little that's new about this film other than the head-scratching excess of it all. While the more controversial moments in the film still aren't as hateful as many mainstream movies offer, War On Everyone does seem to reinforce the belief that if you make your characters deplorable enough you can get away with having them be as openly misogynistic and xenophobic as you like, with no comeback. And making the film's villain a sociopathic paedophile hardly balances the scales; pointing and going "yeah, but this one's worse, look!"
War On Everyone is a film that's barely even aware that the line of good-taste exists, never mind if it's being crossed. And it's not facile, adolescent posturing, more that the film comes off as The Nice Guys but with far fewer fucks given; a buddy-cop duo where both partners are the world-weary, grumpy arsehole. Alexander Skarsgård's Terry displays a disdain for the world that's only matched by the treatment Michael Peña's Bob reserves for his own family. And yeah, Bob & Terry. How many Likely Lads references have you enjoyed at the cinema recently?
Which leads me to wonder, did this film get made as a result of someone winning a bet? Or was making this film how the bet was won? Because I can't imagine War On Everyone being formulated through anything other than cocky, wilful, nihilistic cynicism, and that's not typically how the studio system tends to operate.
The 1970s aesthetic sits at direct odds with a story which is demonstrably set in the present-day, many of the characterisations in the film are illogical at best and the story goes to Iceland (the country, not the supermarket) and back for no discernible reason. The soundtrack contains what can only be described as a dangerous amount of Glen Campbell, and even then the Rhinestone Cowboy dance sequence seems like it's been dropped in from another film…
And speaking of other films, I think the gruff-voiced, hunch-shouldered fight scenes may be used as the backbone of Skarsgård's Batman audition-tape. Michael Peña is great fun (although he always is), Theo James overacts delightfully as the criminal mastermind, Tessa Thompson tries her damnedest to treat the script like a regular film and Caleb Landry Jones steals the show as the campest (yet still utterly despicable) henchman you've ever seen.
What can I say? It's patchy as hell but quite a lot of fun at times. The film's not setting out to shock you; it genuinely doesn't care what you think, and I suspect you'll only really get out of this what you take in.
I enjoyed War On Everyone, I'm just not sure who really benefits from its existence…
Well, a bit of The Nice Guys, but also a bit of Scarface.
You won't get much more from a big screen than you will from a smaller one.
Especially if your friends/family start walking out.
Well, if that's 'being a petulant v-sign to the mainstream buddy-cop movie' then yes.
Not at all.
Level 2: Co-lead Alexander Skarsgård underwhelmed me earlier this year in The Legend of Tarzan alongside Sam 'Windu' Jackson.
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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