Writer/Director, John Michael McDonagh, returns with his latest black comedy War On Everyone. It’s a throwback to the buddy cop movies of the 1970s that remains too true to its title that it essentially becomes a war on the audience, who stare on in confusion as the film’s protagonists go all “Bad Santa” on Albuquerque’s criminal underbelly. With the charming The Guard and the fascinating Calvary under his belt there was somewhat of an anticipation for McDonagh’s next feature. I am sorry to say that War On Everyone certainly disappoints. For a filmmaker whose primary arsenal is his pen, it’s surprising to see that the writing is what fundamentally damages this film.
The dark comedy that both McDonagh brothers have utilised within their scripts have served them well when employed within Irish culture, but when adapted to American stylings it does tend to falter a tad. We saw glimpses of this in Seven Psychopaths, but War On Everyone puts the icing on the cake in terms of cringe. The opening car chase is filled with promise until Michael Pena’s character non-chalantly says “I always wondered if you hit a mime does it make a sound”. Pena in the past has proved himself to be a great comedic asset within Hollywood (Observe and Report, Antman), but speaking McDonagh’s words he is clearly a misfit. Skarsgard isn’t as bad. His lanky Frankenstein-like presence in comparison to Pena is visually gratifying and his emotionally scarred persona does pack more punch to the narrative, but is far from saving this film from turmoil.
The truth is that War On Everyone is too much of clusterfuck to grab audience’s attention. It feels like every piece of dialogue needs to have a controverisal one liner to top it off. You get that sense that they are trying too hard to push the boundaries of good taste, trying too hard to end everything in a joke that by the time any real drama enters the story we’ve been lead astray too far to actually give a shit. We don’t care what happens to either of the protagonsists, we don’t care who gets whacked, who gets away with the money, we’ve been given the runaround so much that we simply lose interest. This is a movie that would have benefited more with less comedy. Or they should have gone full blown slapstick instead of going the route they did and failing miserably at balancing both.
Although War On Everyone doesn’t succeed as a feature length, it does exhibit some good moments and some interesting caricatures. The bizarre androgynous anatgonist, Russell, conveys enough weirdness to keep you mildly invested. The seedy undercurrent of the movie is reminiscent of hard boild 70s noirs such as Get Carter and Hardcore, but the overladen coarse jokes cut you short of any emotional depth. The soundtrack excels with an ecclectic playlist ranging from Glen Campbell to M.O.P. and there are a few laughs to be had, but for a good writer like John Michael McDonagh this is not enough. All these secondary pleasantries don’t mean shiiiiiittt if you can’t perform the bare neccessities. For a filmmaker of McDonagh’s calibre it is disappointing to see him dwindle as he transcends to a more commercial platform. Let’s hope it makes some money and he does better next time. Two out of three ain’t that bad.