Before we even get to our review of War on Everyone, we urge those who have yet to see writer/director John Michael McDonagh’s previous works – Calvary, The Guard – to take the time to seek, relish and savor two of the best hidden gems of films that have sneaked in and out of our playlists for the past few years.
McDonagh’s latest, War on Everyone, is a cop/buddy comedy that pairs actors Alexander Skarsgård (True Blood) and Michael Peña (End of Watch, The Martian) in a story about two corrupt officers who eventually meet their evil match in present day New Mexico.
Terry (Skarsgård) and Bobby (Peña) seem to have come from the Alonzo Harris School of Policing. That is if Alonzo Harris worked for Police Squad! Terry and Bobby run rampant through the city they are sworn to protect with reckless abandon. They drink and drive, do drugs, threaten criminals and generally just break all the rules in the police handbook between reprimands from their commanding officer played by Paul Rieser (Aliens).
Terry is the heavy drinking womanizer that has the intellect of a Joey Barone. Bobby is the (supposed) smart one who has a family consisting of a wife and two boys that he throws verbal barbs at like he was auditioning for Bad Santa 2. But while on the job, the two are more alike than different in that their goal is to survive each day with civilian disregard.
So the two sniff, drink, shoot, smash, punch, kick and speed through daily challenges all of which seem stitched together without any true cohesive narrative. Whereas this year’s The Nice Guys had a dense story coupling two unlikely characters in a plot that develops and builds on each new character introduction, War on Everyone instead treats each new scene and character like a disposable Saturday Night Live skit. Even the two leads don’t look like they are having much fun as they plod through the shallow script pages. Only Malcolm Barrett, who plays informant Reggie, shines with scenes that have any appreciative value.
The film ends up being a convoluted mess. John Michael McDonagh can write. His previous efforts confirm that statement. And War on Everyone should have been something that would fit his style. We had hoped to see how a foreigner would write a movie about American violence and policing. Instead, we got War on Everyone, a movie that is so awkward and contains so many scenes that seem so distant from the one just before that it takes McDonagh down a long snake in the Snakes and Ladders Hollywood game.