War on Everyone is a disjointed, but wonderfully cynical take on the buddy cop movie

Corrupt cops are unpleasant, offensive and hilarious in this first American outing for John Michael McDonagh

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A film that came out earlier this year that I just got around to watching, War on Everyone had mixed reviews at the time, with many damning it, it was even called “this years don’t see film.” This is a preposterous claim that deserves to be sucked into a black hole. The film is far from perfect, but multiple reviews calling it terrible are perplexing, especially in a year in where we have had to suffer through bland shit like Jack Reacher and London has Fallen as well as the box office successes of Suicide Squad and Batman vs Superman. It’s alien to me that someone would be so turned off by a little crass humour that they would call such a clever, well shot, sickly funny movie as War on Everyone terrible, I’ll take offensive over boring any day of the week.

One review claimed that it is not the right time to make a comedy about corrupt cops, which is a laughable insinuation, The Great Dictator came out in 1940, Dr Stangelove, at the height of the Cold War. The purpose of comedy is to highlight the problems of the day and point out what’s laughably stupid and wrong about them. It is always the perfect time to make comedy films about the problems in the world.

War on Everyone is unstuck from time, it’s a pastiche of 1970’s cop dramas set in the modern age. It is having fun with the levels of incompetence that cops could display in these old shows and films. They are as corrupt as the day is long, they don’t get warrants, they want to kill people instead of take them in and they do it all for their own gain. Alexander Skarsgård is doing his best Hunter S Thompson impression throughout his entire drug and alcohol fuelled performance, and it’s hard to think that the story wasn’t somewhat influenced by the capers of Hunter and his Mexican sidekick in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The film has the same rampant pace and sprawling jagged structure, not really establishing itself with a beginning or middle, it just sort of keeps going until it ends. It allows the film to concentrate on the jokes but the fact that McDonagh’s writing never lets up on the quips means there really isn’t any time to slow down and take it all in. The characters are so unlikable and untroubled that it is hard to identify with them.

They drive in a Starsky and Hutch style sports car and do absolutely no real police work throughout the film’s run time. I believe it is an intentional choice on the director’s part, to show how far gone these characters are and that they can in no way continue to be police while maintaining this lifestyle, but one simple scene of them performing their job, just to show that they are capable, would have gone a long way to humanising them.

It has a soundtrack of almost entirely Glen Campbell songs which compliments the dark mood of the film perfectly. There is interesting cinematography at every turn and some amazing comical cuts in the editing. There are so many memorable and clever moments in the film that it’s a shame they’ll be forgotten about by being placed in such an uninteresting story. The film doesn’t go all out parody so it needs to hold on to a somewhat reasonable semblance of story to grip its viewers, it doesn’t do that.

Where the film stumbles is on the villains’ side of things. All the scenes used to establish them are not in line with the rest of the film, it seems intentionally mysterious and away from the point unlike the dialogue of our main characters. The villains in the film are almost too satirical for their own good. They lack the charm and clarity of villains from the Grand Budapest Hotel or the Fifth Element. But they act a slight too strange to really be funny or taken seriously. It’s a tricky line to walk and War on Everyone seems to slip up on it.

Recommendation

This is not up to the high standard of quality McDonagh has set with The Guard and Calvary and it doesn’t come close to his brother’s even higher bar of In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, but it certainly shares a mood and a style of humour with them.

The dialogue seems to still be written for Irish actors and sounds strange coming out in American accents. There are pacing issues and the crime story is too busy and generic but beneath it all the film is refreshingly shameless in its pursuit of a good laugh. At one point even throwing its leads on a plane to Iceland for a simple joke. War on Everyone is not made for everyone, but if you don’t take it too seriously, which you shouldn’t, it’s a comedy, you’ll find plenty to laugh about.

 

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