Bob Bolano and Terry Monroe are two crooked Albuquerque PD detectives. They tend to hustle criminals but their methods have landed them in hot water with their boss, and they are on their last warning. They get wind of a heist and decide to muscle in on the action, robbing the perpetrators. Unfortunately for them, the mastermind of the heist is someone out of their league, someone they would do well to fear.
User Reviews: Irish-born, London-based writer/director John Michael McDonagh’s previous two films, The Guard (2011) and Calvary (2014), were jet- black comedies set in his native country, and both featured knockout performances from their lead, Brendan Gleeson. McDonagh’s debut features were warmly received by critics, especially Calvary, which played out a rather twisted revenge tale against a backdrop of religious guilt. Neither managed to generate much commercial success, but nevertheless made McDonagh hot property and offered him the chance to work in the U.S., much like his brother Martin after In Bruges. Has John gone the way of his brother and delivered a misfire in the mould of the messy Seven Psychopaths?
Well in a way, yes. More akin to the broad, bad-taste tale of a corrupt, hateful cop on a journey of redemption in The Guard than the contemplative weight of Calvary, War on Everyone moves the action to Albuquerque, New Mexico and replaces Gleeson with the sharply- dressed, acid-tongued duo of Alexander Skarsgard and Michael Pena as bad cop and badder cop. Skarsgard plays Terry Monroe, an alcoholic, Glen Campbell-loving giant of a man who is prone to violence. Pena is Bob Bolano, an intellectual family man who enjoys philosophical arguments with his wife (Stephanie Sigman) while berating his fat children. They are the worst kind of cops imaginable; both are corrupt beyond belief, taking cuts of every stash or bundle of money they find, and generally f*****g up scumbags left right and centre.
McDonagh has great faith in his actors to make these truly despicable characters seemingly defined by their quirks likable, and it’s a testament to the leading men that they actually manage to pull it off. Pena can do this kind of thing in his sleep – he could be playing Hitler and will still charm the pants off anybody watching. The real revelation is Skarsgard, showing a real knack for comic timing after previously being resigned to more stoic roles. Apparently Garret Hedlund pulled out at the last minute, and what a stroke of luck that turned out to be. At almost 6"5 and permanently hunched, Skarsgard often resembles a slow-witted giant come to stomp the place to pieces, instantly banishing all memory of the ripped hunk of The Legend of Tarzan. The duo’s chemistry really holds the film together, as the remainder is little more than a mishmash of violence, colourful characters and homages.
Another way to make loathsome characters more sympathetic is by pitting them against someone even more heinous. Here the big villain is English aristocrat James Mangan (Theo James), a narcissistic psychopath whose planned heist with Muslim convert and police informer Reggie X (Malcolm Barrett) ends in a bloodbath. Terry and Bob still want their cut though, but the well-spoken Lord may prove too powerful to intimidate, especially with police chief Gerry Stanton (Paul Reiser) and City Hall breathing down their necks. It’s not a particularly interesting story to build a collection of shakedowns, car chases and shoot-outs around, but some relief is offered in the relationship between Terry and former stripper Jackie (Tessa Thompson), who form a sweet romance amidst all the misanthropy. A certain step back after the mastery of Calvary, War on Everyone will offend some but have others in stitches, and I’m somewhere in between.