John Michael McDonagh returns to cinemas after two highly acclaimed Irish gems that put him on the map (other than being the brother of Martin McDonagh) and follows in Martin’s footsteps by going stateside.
War On Everyone is a cack-handed crime comedy starring Michael Peña and Alexander Skarsgård as two corrupt New Mexico cops who have no qualms about beating, harassing and blackmailing people and stealing large amounts of drugs and money in the process. They get tipped off about a big heist going down that will bring in a million dollars in cash, but when their informant gives them false info and makes off with the money himself, they set out to track him down as well as go head to head with a wealthy British lord who orchestrated the whole deal.
Talk about a big fucking misfire! While some people would suggest that he, at times, over-directed Calvary, he completely under-directed this. When Martin McDonagh followed up the masterful In Bruges with the L.A. set Seven Psychopaths, he made sure to keep his flair for razor sharp, quick fire comedy and great writing that at times perfectly reflected Irish humour; while appealing to the comedic aspects of American comedy and nailing it hard. With John Michael McDonagh’s trip to Albuquerque, he abandons all of the clever, quirky dialogue he had for his previous two features and replaces it with the modern, awkward, juvenile “saying fuck cause it’s funny” aspects of American Comedy.
Every word on screen feels really artificial and completely lacks subtlety. Now, I’m not saying I want a whole film of subtle humour, but I want a little bit amidst the easy, crude, dick jokes; especially from someone who I KNOW can do better. This whole film is a collection of badly edited moments that are strung together looser than a flu-shit. I will not deny that there are a good few moments where I did laugh, some of the jokes certainly land, but I spent about 95% of the runtime stone faced and quite frankly, bored.
There really isn’t anything there regarding a script; it’s a bunch of funny lines that were written down and tossed about the most formulaic crime comedy you could write. If you’ve seen The Guard or Calvary, you’ll know McDonagh is capable of writing funny and writing dark and at times he can merge them nicely together; here he tries to add in moments of darkness with alcoholism and references to child sexual abuse, but none of it really hits; especially the abuse, which seems like it was only thrown in there as an excuse to have both protagonists kill people.
A lot of the dialogue is like tidbits ripped from Wikipedia. When Tarantino writes characters discussing pop culture and trivia, it’s coming right from his brain and fascination with the subjects, so when they talk, it feels natural, real and like they themselves are thinking it; here it’s just random facts and bits of pop culture references that are thrown in to give the appearance of naturalistic, Tarantino-esque dialogue. It doesn’t work at all.
Peña and Skarsgård’s chemistry is fairly week too; I don’t really believe that these are best friends and on duty partners. They just both have the same fact talking, always bitter and sweary attitudes. One scene that was there for character development but for me actually undeveloped them, was when they’re listening to Glen Campbell in their car. Peña asks who it is and Skarsgård is shocked that he’s never heard of him before. That would be a fine scene if they were two cops put together who don’t know anything about eachother. But the fact these are allegedly best friends and have been partners for years. and with Skarsgård’s infatuation with Campbell (always listening to him when he’s alone, owning shirts, never shutting the fuck up about him) – you’d think Peña would be well aware of who he is. I didn’t buy it at all.
Peña has some decent lines and he’s generally a funny guy so he did have a good few jokes that landed well, but Skarsgård doesn’t have a comedic bone in his body; I don’t think I laughed at anything he said, but that’s also possible cause this is a very forgettable film and I may have just forgotten. I like the chap but he doesn’t handle quick fire comedy well, especially when it’s as blunt as a fucking hammer. There’s scenes where they try to be quirky, such as walking in on a murder scene eating burgers casually. It’s so lazy, obvious and easy.
One aspect I really liked about it, but also annoyed the fuck out of me, was the costume design and general look of the film. It goes for a very heavy 1970s Starsky & Hutch style, with the clothing, hairstyles and cars, but it’s set in the modern age which is made painfully obvious with needless references to X-Boxes, flat screen TVs and iPhones. They’re so needless in fact, that if you just removed them you would never guess it was set modern day. The look of the film is so 70s that they should have just fucking set it then! It all seems so out of place and it wrecked the atmosphere the film tried to have.
There are some great tunes needle dropped throughout but none of them serve the scene in any way, it’s more just a game of “check out this cool song”. The editing is all over the shop; it doesn’t give a clear indication of days passing and certain things happen out of nowhere with little to no mention of it or repercussion. There’s moments that seem like they were edited together for a trailer but they were actually genuine scenes in the film. Insanely messy work.
I’m shitting on this film pretty hard and I’m even surprising myself considering I didn’t think it was terrible when I was watching, but in the few hours of reflection I’ve had, I’ve come to realise it was actually shite. I definitely didn’t hate it and it’s far from the year’s worst, but it’s still a fucking shambles of a film; tonally, comedically, structurally and with its writing. As I said, there’s undeniably funny moments in it, I can count at least 10 that made me laugh, but 10 moments in a film of hundreds of forced jokes is very poor.
Every joke that landed and made me laugh also made me frustrated cause they’re wasted here. Some of the moments and jokes should have been written into a much smarter and better film, the rest are more than welcome to die off. There is very, VERY little in the way of action scenes too. Nearly every scene is just Skarsgård knocking someone out with one punch, a joke that got old fast, and a shootout in the latter part of the film that was just cringe worthy.
If they hadn’t been released at roughly the same time, you’d swear this was trying to stylistically be a terrible rip off of Shane Black’s marvelous crime comedy, The Nice Guys; only that is expertly written and directed with useful set pieces, hysterical dialogue, a comforting atmosphere,
great action scenes and has a cast with a whole periodic table worth of chemistry. Pretty much everything this hasn’t got.
I had avoided a lot of the advertising for this, apart from the unavoidable TV spots, but I had heard it had Peña and was written and directed by McDonagh, so I was on board from there, but it just left me with bitter disappointment. I can see even fans of brainless comedy having trouble enjoying some of this, purely cause it’s so clunky and with a completely unmotivated plot.
What I Liked:
- Some very funny lines, all of which came from Michael Peña
- Great costume design and cars
- Great tunes, but used incorrectly
What I didn’t Like:
- Virtually everything else…
- Uninspired plot line that doesn’t make much sense
- Poor action scenes
- Terrible writing
- Awful comedy that misses the beat
- Disjointed editing
- Tonally broken
- Thinks it’s smarter than it is
- As I said, everything else
War On Everyone is in cinemas from today.