War On Everyone
Director: John Michael McDonagh.
Screenplay: John Michael McDonagh.
Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Michael Peña, Tessa Thompson, Theo James, Paul Reiser, Caleb Landry Jones, Malcolm Barrett, David Wilmot, Stephanie Sigman.
“He called me a ‘wet back’! He knows damn well I was born here. He is a big fat racist pig is what he is”
After two brilliant outings with The Guard and Calvary, all eyes were on Irish writer/director John Michael McDonagh’s third feature. There’s a problem though, and that problem is the same one that plagued his brother Martin when he delivered the woefully misjudged Seven Psychopaths after his successful debut In Bruges. Martin’s problem was heading straight for Hollywood while forgetting to take a coherent script with him and this film has a similar sense of déjà vu.
Plot: Terry Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård) and Bob Bolaño (Michael Peña) are two cops who are just as corrupt as the criminals they arrest. However, when they try and shake down a strip club owner, they stumble on an even bigger crime lord.
Leaving behind the idyllic coasts of Ireland, McDonagh’s third film focuses on the sun kissed streets of L.A. where he delivers a generic buddy/cop story. He attempts to play with conventions a little by throwing in some one liners that are sure to cause offence with some minority or other but the jokes are strained and few, if any, work at all. You might think that if the humour doesn’t fly then you’ll find something else to grab your interest but there isn’t anything. The story lacks drive and there’s nothing here that we haven’t seen before. In fact, most recently Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe tread the same ground with The Nice Guys with much more entertaining results.
I actually felt sorry for Skarsgård and Peña; they are two gifted actors but there’s no material here to work with and, together, they simply lack chemistry. There’s also no attempt, whatsoever, to craft a three dimensional villain. What we get in this respect is strictly a stereotype with Theo James’ upper-class nasty attitude and posh English accent. Some vibrancy is attempted with the introduction of Caleb Landry Jones’ flamboyant strip-club owner but the only colour he injects is his bright yellow socks. It’s actually hard to believe that this was the same person who wrote and directed the sublime Calvary – one of my favourite films of 2014.
An absolutely pointless and messy endeavour that suffers horrendously from a lazy script. In fact, to quote the film itself, “it starts and ends with the script. If you ain’t got a good script, you ain’t got shit“. Wise words but it’s just a shame that McDonagh didn’t pay heed to them.
Trivia: The director said when Garrett Hedlund dropped out 3 weeks before shooting began, he was given a list of 6 actors he could potentially choose from, 3 he dropped immediately. He went on to choose Skarsgard because of a YouTube video he saw of him drunk at a football match, in which he’s trying to whip the rest of the crowd in a freenzy as he thought they were being too quiet. He thought this made him perfect for the role of Terry.