Everyone loves a buddy cop movie, right? From Lethal Weapon to Turner & Hooch, everyone can enjoy the excitement of crime solving combined with the joy of a friendship stretched to the limit but ultimately stronger for having been through the experience. There's something for everyone. And this is War On Everyone.
Or possibly War On Everyone Who Likes Buddy Cop Movies.
John Michael McDonagh's latest is such a hot mess of styles, tones and events that it feels like the rough cut could have been about four hours long. More to the point, it feels nothing like his previous two outings The Guard and Calvary. War On Everyone is Brendan Gleeson-less and American set (to its detriment). At times it feels like it wants to be Tango & Cash and Rush Hour at the same time, then hinting in some scenes that it has far more serious intentions.
Perhaps inadvertently named after ‘60s sitcom characters The Likely Lads, Bob (Michael Peña) and Terry (Aleksander Skarsgård) are ludicrously corrupt cops who smash their cars through case after case, letting any quarry go free for the right price. That is, until they unwittingly get mixed up with English crime baron and aristocrat Lord James Mangan and come to realise that they aren’t untouchable. The plot is almost inconsequential, though, as despite the sometimes very heavyweight subject matter, everything is played disconcertingly for light laughs.
Even the actors appear confused. Michael Peña shifts between playing the corrupt cop partner of Jake Gyllenhaal from End Of Watch and the idiotic but savvy elevator operator Enrique from Tower Heist. Aleksander Skarsgård seems like he wants to play it completely straight, but then has moments of inexplicable slapstick that are very funny, but tonally bewildering nonetheless.
Most strange, though, is the film’s employment, almost certainly intentional, of bad taste humour. Ru Paul's Drag Race contestant Derrick Barry is used as a reveal for the love of one of the (male) character's lives. Niqab-wearing tennis players and n Down's syndrome man walking his dog are also used so incongruously that they appear to be the jokes themselves, rather than being used to comment on films that use such flagrant exploitation.
That said, War On Everyone is still entertaining. It has a frenetic pace, some excellent wisecracks and some fantastic moments throughout. If this hadn't been a McDonagh film, perhaps expectations wouldn't have been so high. It’s actually closer in spirit to McDonagh’s brother Martin and his films In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths. If you're going in expecting Calvary, you'll probably be sorely disappointed.
But for those looking for some manic buddy cop entertainment, this will be chewing gum for the eyes. Just don’t think too much about it afterwards.