Irish indie film great John Michael McDonagh's latest black comedy, War on Everyone, turns the buddy cop subgenre on its side, enlisting Michael Peña and Alexander Skarsgård to play a pair of out of control police officers with a penchant for fast cars, Class A drugs and alcohol. It's the perfect story for his first American film foray.
Set in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the vulgar and vicious film tells the story of Bob (Peña) and Terry (Skarsgård), two corrupt coppers with broken moral compasses and next to no manners who finally meet their match when Lord James Mangan (The Divergent Series' Theo James) and his sociopathic sidekick Birdwell (Caleb Landry Jones) appear after a string of strange occurrences shakes the town.
As the title probably suggests, the setup allows Bob and Terry (a not-so subtle nod to the lead characters in British sitcom The Likely Lads) to go all-out, assaulting anyone who gets in the way of their ever-evolving case.
Peña, usually a second-stringer, shines brightest here in one of his rare lead roles, delivering his lines, no matter how disgusting, with ease; Skarsgård stands out due to his sheer size on screen (his hulking frame is put to good use for the more physical scenes).
War on Everyone's biggest downside is that prioritizes style a bit too much over substance. The characters and camera shots scream Starsky and Hutch and the work of Walter Hill, but while McDonagh's previous films (2011's critically acclaimed The Guard, 2014's Calvary) made good use of its bleak settings (mostly Galway at its greyest), War on Everyone seems to get lost in its surroundings, making it feel just a tad too quirky and not rooted enough in reality. It's too bad, since that's something that his last two films — a black buddy cop comedy and community-focused Catholic revenge thriller, respectively — had in spades.
Thanks in part to last year's The Nice Guys, it seems like '70s-style cop comedies are having a sort of resurgence now, and while War on Everyone doesn't hit all the right marks, it's still a blast to watch. (Search Engine Films)