“War On Everyone” sees acclaimed director John Michael McDonagh taking a leaf out of Tarantino’s book and nearly everything but the front and back covers from the Shane Black playbook to bring us a profane and anarchically violent comedy so dark is rivals Vantablack for pitch blackness.
Bob Bolaño (Michael Peña) and Terry Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård) are a pair of corrupt New Mexico cops who have a tidy line in blackmailing any criminals unlucky enough to cross their path. But their freewheeling cash and drugs buffet lifestyle takes a sinister turn when they encounter a ruthless crime lord who’s even worse than they are.
Comparisons to “The Nice Guys” are inevitable but “War On Everyone” pushes further and faster and has far fewer fucks to give when it comes to narrative convention, likeable characters or a cohesive plot. What it does have is a great cast, some great ideas and a gleefully unrestrained attitude to violence, offensive language and morality. It crashes –literrally – into into life from the very first scene and then refuses to take its foot off the accelerator. It’s a jarring introduction to a film which is likely to prove quite the Marmite-style divider of audiences, helped and hindered in equal measure by its cavalier attitude to misogyny, racism, homophobia and transphobia.
For me, the first half an hour was more irritating than entertaining as the breakneck pace and leave no group unoffended scattergun dialogue felt like the film was trying way too hard. Thanks to the winning lead performances of Peña and Skarsgård though, it won me round eventually and I ended up enjoying it quite a bit. Theo James’ villain is better in concept than execution but his lack of genuine menace is more than made up for by the androgynous and creepily retro henchman Birdwell (Caleb Landry Jones), a creation who feels like he stepped right out of the original “Dirty Harry”. Lots to enjoy, then, but also plenty to annoy and frustrate if the film’s hit and miss attitude doesn’t strike you just right. It might not delight fans of “Calvary” or “The Guard” but it underlines McDonagh’s status as an always interesting filmmaker.