Now on Blu-ray: The Immoral Cops of John Michael McDonagh’s ‘War on Everyone’

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War on Everyone Blu-ray

Sleazy. Immoral. Corrupt. Intoxicated. With a movie where these are the adjectives that properly describe its main characters, who are both cops, it’s not hard to see why people didn’t quite connect with writer-director John Michael McDonagh’s War on Everyone. Considering that I could just as easily be described in the same manner, I found this wildly inappropriate subversion of the buddy cop genre to be a relentlessly entertaining as the caustic action unfolds with wit and abandon.

Terry Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård) and Bob Bolaño (Michael Peña) are pretty good at what they do. Unfortunately, they’re corrupt cops. However, there’s a bit of nobility in their corruption as the two officers of the law only abuse their power in order to rob the robbers. Of course, this creates a number of occupational hazards, including the ire of their superior Lieutenant Gerry Stanton (Paul Reiser) who threatens to fire them if he encounters any more accusations of bribery and corruption. Though they’re threatened with losing their livelihood and their badges, Terry and Bob are undeterred in their habit of grifting the grifters and set their sights upon Lord James Mangan (Theo James), a wealthy British businessman with a predilection for criminal enterprise. They’ll quickly learn that a badge doesn’t grant you protection when you’re ripping off the bad guys with a violent streak.

Much of the depraved charm of War on Everyone comes from the dynamic between its central corrupt cops. Terry is a hopeless alcoholic, often indulging excessively while on duty. He eventually starts a relationship with Jackie (Tessa Thompson), a former stripper who has been the victim of his corrupt policing. Bob, meanwhile, has his life more in order. He’s happily married to Delores (Stephanie Sigman) and they have two children. The two delinquent officers of the law have a number of amusing conversations where they exchange philosophical musings and pop culture trivia while crafting their scheme to defraud the criminals on their beat. Their exploits lead to wildly absurd moments, such as the opening scene where they barrel over a mime with their car or a violent interrogation where they accidentally remove a man’s toupee.

McDonagh uses War on Everyone as a way to comment both on the representation of policing in pop culture and the violent nature of American police forces. Like his film The Guard, McDonagh uses buddy cop movie clichés in the foundation of the film but is unafraid to take the action in wild and unexpected places. The Irish filmmaker revels in lampooning the perception of American police. At the start of the film, Terry and Bob are returning from suspension after fighting one of their colleagues for a racist remark directed by Bob. As their Lieutenant tells them, if he had to fire every racist cop on the force he’d have no more cops. It’s a blunt and comedic observation that plenty will find in poor taste but that’s not to say there’s not a grain of truth to it.

The lone special feature on the Blu-ray for War on Everyone is a featurette that looks at the cast of the film. Alexander Skarsgård and Michael Peña along with the other stars of the film talk about their characters and their involvement, each bringing a certain level of enthusiasm for the project. Conspicuously absent, though, is writer-director John Michael McDonagh, who I assume is content in letting the film speak for itself.

The brash, acerbic brutality of War on Everyone certainly isn’t for everyone. If you like action movies that are a deconstruction of the genre that operate with wit and verve, the latest by John Michael McDonagh is for you. If you want a feel-good movie where characters learn important life lessons and undergo profound changes, there’s just nothing in War on Everyone for you. This sleazy piece of filmmaking comes at you with a gun in each hand and a bitter insult always on the tip of its tongue.

 

War on Everyone
  • Overall Score
4

Summary

Sleazy, corrupt, and immoral, John Michael McDonagh’s War on Everyone assaults any notion of good taste in raucous action-comedy about the most corrupt cops ever to grace the screen.

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