After the one-two punch of The Guard and Calvary, John Michael McDonagh had pretty much guaranteed our interest in whatever he chose to do next; it’s a shame, then, that War on Everyone is such a disappointing, disheartening experience. At best, McDonaugh’s latest feature is a breezy, frenetic buddy-cop actioner; at worst, it belongs among the slew of Tarantino rip-offs that peppered American film throughout the ’90s. This from the man who gave us Calvary?
So clear are its influences that War On Everyone never really finds the opportunity to become its own thing; instead, its Lethal Weapon-cum-Bad Boys-cum-Bad Lieutenant-cum-Tarantino stylings just feel like old hat. The dark humour and existential undercurrents that informed McDonagh’s earlier films are, respectively, less cutting and almost absent. Shooting for a broader audience isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it doesn’t change the fact that a miss very much remains a miss.
Although outwardly disappointing, it’s not the case that War on Everyone is a total write-off. Granted, its characters are paper thin and it is always a film in desperate search of a plot, but there is the occasional chuckle to be had here and there, mainly thanks to the at times sparkling interplay between bad cops Peña and Skarsgård. At the very least, War on Everyone is a quiet reminder that Michael Peña really deserves to emerge from the safe shadow of his supporting man schtick and take the lead more often.
There are moments of fun to be had in War on Everyone but they are few and far between and the film ultimately winds up being quite forgettable. War on Everyone is a wobble on the podium for one of the most interesting directors working today. An error of judgement.
CAST: Michael Peña, Alexander Skarsgård, Theo James, Tessa Thompson, Caleb Landry Jones
DIRECTOR: John Michael McDonagh
WRITER: John Michael McDonagh
SYNOPSIS: Two corrupt cops in New Mexico set out to blackmail and frame every criminal unfortunate enough to cross their path.
War On Everyone was reviewed as part of One Room With A View’s coverage of the 66th Berlinale Film Festival, which runs 11-21 February 2016.