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War On Everyone Review

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For his follow up to The Guard and Calvary, writer/director John Michael McDonagh is trading in the  wet and dull vistas of Ireland for much warmer climes, namely Albuquerque, New Mexico, with War on Everyone, a ‘bad cop, worse cop’ flavour of buddy cop comedy. Very much Lethal Weapon if both our heroes were Harvey Keitel and Nicholas Cage’s Bad Lieutenants, the story is simple enough: corrupt cops Bob and Terry (Michael Peña and Alexander Skarsgård) get wind of an upcoming heist and decide to take the money for themselves. Unfortunately, things take a turn fro the sinister when they tangle with ‘Lord’ James Mangan (Theo James), a criminally inclined English business man who doesn’t take too kindly to the pair interfering in his affairs.


Starting things off with a one sided car chase featuring a mime, War on Everyone bursts out of the traps, cementing itself as the mean spirited black comedy all the trailers and marketing painted it as. McDonagh’s smart script crackles with well timed zingers and great chemistry between Peña and Skarsgård, perfectly subverting the well worn tropes of a movie of this type and the first act finds plenty of material from the premise to keep things entertaining. The humour is as pitch black as you’d expect, with, as the title suggests, no one is safe from McDonagh’s razor sharp barbs, even if it sometimes hits too much below the belt with certain minority groups, leaving a bad taste in peoples mouths. Unfortunately, as the movie marches on, the cracks begin to show, and you begin to realise how one note the movie actually is, not really rising above a pitch black Lethal Weapon clone. Once the set-up is out of the way, the story slows to a crawl and just becomes a collection of scenes where the characters bicker and trade dialogue that becomes increasingly laboured trying to appear intellectual. The humour begins to seriously dip as the end credits beckon, and the plot is almost non-existent, throwing in an overabundance of cop movie cliches, from seedy strip club owners and double crossing hoods to pornographers and campy henchmen, into the pot and not really doing much with them. Throw in some generic character development which sees proceedings grind to a halt, and you will find your enjoyment seriously beginning to wane. The villains are probably the biggest problem, with Mangan’s role in proceedings pretty much adds up to naught, the character being so thinly written that his only defining characteristic is that he has a wide and varied drug habit, and Caleb Landry Jones’ as his lisping Number 2 outstays his welcome almost immediately.

Thankfully, the two leads go a long way to keep War on Everyone above water, with Peña perfectly suited as the endlessly chatty Bob, spouting an endless stream of one-liners and well timed observations, gelling well with Skarsgårds Terry, a sensitive brute who has an odd Glenn Campbell obsession. The pair spark off each other incredibly well, their friendship feeling deeply real on more than one occasion. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast aren’t given the same courtesy, playing generic cliches of characters we’ve seen time and time again.

What begins as a pitch black buddy cop comedy soon descends into a generic cliche ridden example of the genre, just about saved by two leads on top form.


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