War on Everyone

Review: War on Everyone

03 Sep 17

Not quite hell (more like creative limbo)

Ouch. John Michael McDonagh's debut feature, The Guard, was a passably cute Irish variation on the mismatched cop formula. His last film, the near-brilliant Calvary, was definitely a huge step forward (do see it, if you haven't). So it's disappointing that his third film should feel like two big steps backward: War on Everyone finds him in buddy cop territory again, this time in the American southwest, but with nothing authentic to say. So he has, instead, cranked out a contrived riff on the established routine.

His point of difference, which fast-reveals itself to be off-puttingly tone deaf, is that his cops are so bad it's funny. I like the grit that a little cynicism can bring to any story but the allegedly comedic spectacle of these two no-good bros-with-badges behaving so disgracefully stuck in my throat.

Pena and Skarsgard do what they can but the entire enterprise feels misconceived. The structure's lumpy and episodic; the cultural references too arch and self-satisfied; there's a strain of malignant machismo that's indulged as much as it's "satirized"; its climactic shootout has all the oomph and inspiration of bureaucratic formality.

Feeling generous, I'm awarding half-a-star for each of the two legit belly-laughs I got, plus one more as a critical life-jacket for Mr McDonagh, outta respect for the talent evident in his last movie. Let's hope he'll find better application for it next time.