WAR ON EVERYONE. UK, 2016. Starring Michael Pena, Alexander Skarsgaard, Theo James, Tessa Thompson, Stephanie Sigman, Caleb Landry Jones, Malcolm Barrett. Directed by John Michael McDonagh. 97 minutes. Rated MA (Strong violence, coarse language, drug use and sex).
You would definitely have to be in a particular frame of mind to go to see War on Everyone – because the screenplay goes to war on customary and expected values, especially in a police force. This is very tongue-in-cheek material and many viewers may not like the taste.
The writer-director, John Michael M Donagh, has a British and Irish background (and is not afraid to target both sensibilities in dramatising eccentric characters and what they have to say and do). He created a strong impression with The Guard, a serious and comic look at an Irish policeman, and difficulties with the letter of the law and with corruption. This is definitely the case with the American policeman here. But then, he made a huge impression with his film about the priest targeted by a victim of sexual abuse, Calvary. Advertising, surprisingly, referred to this film as a comedy but most audiences responded to it very seriously, especially with Brendan Gleeson’s performance as the priest.
This film seem worlds away from Calvary.
The setting is Albuquerque New Mexico, and our two “heroes” Terry and Bob, played by Alexander Skarsgaard and Michael Pena, are continually in trouble from their superior, Paul Reiser, because of their unorthodox way of policing (which includes influencing the law and is not above money on the take). Terry has sexual problems but finishes up having a good relationship with a stripper, Stephanie Sigman. Bob, on the other hand, is a family man, a most congenial wife, Tessa Thompson, two boys, one of whom is definitely overweight and the other sometimes slow but, while he is critical of them, he is often a doting father. He seems the least likely of renegade police officers.
One day they are in a museum and realise that a bunch of criminals have gathered there and are planning a big robbery. They check on their contacts, especially an African- American man, Reggie, just out of jail who has a nonchalant Irish friend. Snorting cocaine is involved – a lot of it and by all.The robbery takes place fairly quickly but most of those who perpetrated are found dead, except for Reggie who was the getaway driver.
So, just when least expecting it, the action transfers to Iceland, impressively photographed with snow and landscapes as well as some details of Rejkavik. It is here that money exchanges hands and our ‘heroes’ go back to Albuquerque to see what more they can extract.
The further complication is an English Lord, into drugs and sex as well as money, played by Theo James. There is also an androgynous barkeeper who is in contact with the Lord but is pursued in a huge chase by Terry and Bob.
It doesn’t spoil anything to say that it is all building up to a confrontation between everyone and there is no doubt as to who will win the day and return to the hot spring spa in Iceland.
Audiences who enjoy heavy irony, that has a touch of spoof and satire and the touch of lawlessness are really the target audience for War on Everyone.
Sony/Icon Released November 17th