War On Everyone (Berlin Review)
Considering how perceptibly poignant his first two features are, it was hard to picture a John Michael McDonagh movie quite like the unapologetic and misanthropic War On Everyone. But hey, you know what they say: everything is bigger in America. With War, McDonagh turns away from the finesse we witnessed in The Guard and Cavalry, perhaps as a way to satirize the version of the US everyone else sees. It’s tonally erratic, loud, and rude, and a hundred times funnier than his previous works. Unhinged, like a rabid dog running around that you still have the urge to pet, this anti-hero buddy cop movie has cult status written all over it, giving us a good hard look at the funny side of Alexander Skarsgard and reminding us that Michael Pena is a comedic national treasure.
Terry (Skarsgard) and Bob (Pena) are close friends and partners on the force, a job they use as a springboard and get-out-of-jail free card to do shady, corrupt business. Never starting their sentences with “You have the right to remain silent,” Terry and Bob abuse lowlifes to score drugs and money while trying to keep their private lives in some kind of order (but not really giving a shit about it). Bob is married to Delores (Stephanie Sigman), with whom he has two overweight sons; Terry is the loner alcoholic with the vibe of private eye in the 1940s from a parallel universe with a country twist, one that plays Glenn Campbell 24/7 on the jukebox. When a major deal goes bad, a British criminal (Theo James) gets on Terry and Bob’s radar, and the shitstorm starts brewing.
If you start looking at War On Everyone as anything other than a hilarious journey with entertainment as the only destination, you’ll be left with a pretty shallow outer shell. It’s all about setting up scenes, throwing punchlines, working off of McDonagh’s zing-tastic screenplay, and the unlikely dynamic that builds between Skarsgard and Pena (oh, and Caleb Landry Jones looking he stepped out of a post-modern stage play of A Clockwork Orange is not to be missed). Underneath the garish surface, there’s philosophy a-brewing; but too many swerves to random dead-end scenes stopped me from wanting to explore further. Luckily, it keeps getting back on the main road with a mean streak of anti-PC humor that’s ballsy, vibrant and refreshing.