John Michael McDonagh’s (JMM) War on Everyone is a buddy cop parody that feels like Shane Black doing Bad Lieutenant. It’s a hilarious, unfiltered and ridiculous take on the genre that blissfully ignores the plot holes that it creates and then dances around them.
Destructive duo Bob Bolaño (Michael Peña) and Terry Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård) skid around the sleepy streets of Albuquerque in an American muscle car taking no prisoners. After a cocaine fuelled parlay with their informant Reggie (Malcolm Barrett) they’re set upon by Lord James Mangan (Theo James), a local porn producer and thief, whose heist looks like something that’s perfect for them to commandeer for early retirement funds.
JMM is not repeating his previous formula here (like The Guard or the incredible Calvary), he’s out to point out the inherent ridiculousness of the buddy cop genre in the most overt ways possible. War on Everyone even takes a meta moment to acknowledge that Reggie is like Huggy Bear from Starsky and Hutch (and really that the whole film feels like a parody of that 70’s cops TV show). JMM drops that joke in defiance to say that even thinking that a duo like that is plausible is absurd. The ‘hero’ cops are certainly crooked (every bust results in a TV being acquired or some cocaine mysteriously going into their pockets), the town is not Robocop‘s Detroit – it looks like a sun drenched retirement community. And yet Bolaño and Monroe turn every interaction with a crook into an operatic affair. There doesn’t seem to be consequences for their discretions and as Andrew Dominik’s Chopper taught us; never let the truth get in the way of a good yarn.
Peña is a joy as the fast talking Bolaño. He is happily choked during sex, teases his youngest son ‘because he’s the most vulnerable’ and is responsible for the greatest Iceland gag in the history of movies that I’ve seen. Skarsgård is great as Monroe, the beautiful and trigger happy dimwitted instrument of ‘blunt force trauma’ in the partnership. Watch as he simultaneously warms your heart with his love for Glen Campbell’s country ballads, looking to help a kid driven to the street after his crook father meets an ugly end; contrasted by the fact that he cannot drive slowly without smashing into parked cars, is a high functioning alcoholic and just can’t stand an encounter where he’s not punching someone in the face.
The support cast are great foils for the ridiculousness; the only disappointment is Tessa Thompson’s Jackie Hollis who doesn’t have much to do beyond sex object love interest. Paul Reiser surprises as Lt. Gerry Stanton, a commanding officer who literally does not care what they’re up to, as long as he doesn’t get complaints. Malcolm Barrett’s Reggie is great because he’s the character in the film that seems to be the most aware of how absurd everything is around them. And Caleb Landry Jones’ screeching Birdwell seems like he’s been plucked out of Antonioni’s Close-Up.
When War on Everyone turns an informant shake-down into a cocaine fuelled, predictably stupid planning session of how to exploit the ‘real’ crooks with Peña, Skarsgård and Barrett in top form; I thought, man this is my kind of film.
Blake Howard – follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman
Directed by: John Michael McDonagh
Written by: John Michael McDonagh
Starring: Michael Peña, Alexander Skarsgård, Tessa Thompson, Theo James , Caleb Landry Jones, Paul Reiser, Stephanie Sigman, Malcolm Barrett,
Alexander Skarsgård … Terry Monroe
Theo James … Lord James Mangan
Tessa Thompson … Jackie Hollis
Michael Peña … Bob Bolaño
Caleb Landry Jones … Birdwell
Paul Reiser … Lt. Gerry Stanton
Stephanie Sigman … Delores
Malcolm Barrett … Reggie