TADFF 2016: War on Everyone
Similar to the two corrupt cops at the center of his film, John Michael McDonagh’s War on Everyone flies so loose and reckless that it could care less who it offends in the process. It is crude, politically incorrect, completely ridiculous, and yes, downright hilarious.
Characters in within this film may discuss the importance of having a good story when it comes to porn, but War on Everyone’s plot is its least interesting aspect. The film tells the tale of a pair of police detectives, Bob Bolaño (Michael Peña) and Terry Monro (Alexander Skarsgård), as they stumble through life drinking, doing drugs, and blackmailing local criminals out of tons of money. Occasionally the pair find time to handle a little police work along the way, that is when they are not being suspended for using excessive force of course. Bolaño and Monro get more than they bargain for though when their latest case points to a British business man, Lord James Mangan (Theo James), who proves to be far more ruthless than he appears on the surface.
Playing with the tropes of the buddy cop genre, McDonagh’s (The Guard, Calvary) film feels like a twisted version of Starsky & Hutch by way of Bad Lieutenant. It not only revels in watching men behaving badly, but frequently tests the audiences limits via its everyone is fair game style of humour. Throughout its script, which is riddled with plenty of great one-liners, War on Everyone pokes fun at the genre while simultaneously showing how unknowingly prejudice these brand of films can often be. One minute Bolaño is quick to defend his actions against a man who hurled offensive Hispanic slurs at him, the next he unconsciously assumes that his black informant, Reggie (delightfully portrayed by Malcolm Barrett), has converted to the Muslim faith simply because he spent time in jail.
As crass as Bolaño and Monro are, McDonagh manages to provide the characters with a genuine sense of morality and respect for family, as thin a line as it may be. This helps to distinguish their motivations from those of Mangan and his right-hand man Birdwell (played with full gusto by Caleb Landry Jones). Whether or not the pair of unruly cops stop Mangan is not really as important as watching them bumble their way through the process. It helps that Skarsgård and Peña are clearly having a ball in the lead roles. They ensure the film remains entertaining even in its most outlandish moments. The supporting cast, which include Tessa Thompson, Stephanie Sigman and Paul Reiser, also assist in keeping the laughs moving at a brisk pace so that the story never overstays its welcome.
War on Everyone may not offer the gripping action police procedural that has become expected from the genre, nor is it on par with the director’s previous works. However, McDonagh succeeds in crafting an unabashed black comedy that refuses to apologize for its actions. It is a film that will no doubt offend many, but will also have audiences laughing despite themselves.