Netflix UK film review: War on Everyone
Ivan Radford | On 04, Feb 2017Reading time: 2 mins
Director: John Michael McDonagh
Cast: Michael Peña, Alexander Skarsgård
Watch War on Everyone online in the UK: Netflix UK / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Google Play
A comedy crime movie? Set in Albuquerque, the home of Breaking Bad? From the writer and director of The Guard? Starring Michael Peña and Alexander Skarsgård? On paper, War on Everyone is an immediate home run. On screen? It’s paper-thin.
Skarsgård and Peña play Terry and Bob, two good-for-nothing cops who spend most of their time creating more crime than they solve. So when they come across a criminal even more unsavoury than them, who better to take him down?
Sadly, the answer winds up being anyone else, as our duo strive to be so despicable that any fondness for their naughty language and even naughtier actions ultimately disappears. That’s not because they’re unlikeable – both Calvary and The Guard prove John Michael McDonagh is a writer capable of charming us with sympathetic heroes and psychos alike – but because there’s just no let-up: the film jumps into “edgy” gear and doesn’t bother to change pace for 100 minutes.
The actors are clearly enjoying the material: Skarsgård, whose casting is an intriguing against-type choice, sells Terry’s melancholic, sociopathic side (he joined the police because it means he “can shoot people for no reason”), while Peña is one of the best fast-talkers in the business, initially raising smirks with his energetic delivery. They have a solid chemistry, sparking off each other believably for the first act. But between Caleb Landry Jones’ oh-so-cartoonish villain and Terry’s apparent love of Glen Campbell, too many quirks spoil the broth. Compared to The Nice Guys or Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, its closest companions from recent years, this notably lacks a compelling case to crack or a memorable villain to loathe, which leaves you with little to keep you going with when the laughs run up. (A detour to Iceland feels particularly out of place.)
McDonagh’s direction nails the pastiche style well enough, from the wipe cuts to the old-school cars, but the screenplay is the weak spot. McDonagh’s The Guard took the oversized tropes of the crime genre and juxtaposed them with small-town settings to wonderfully dark effect, but this takes the oversized tropes of the crime genre and puts them against an equally oversized backdrop. War on Everyone is all well and good, but you wish he chose a tinier target.
War on Everyone is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.