War on Everyone – Review (***)

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Writer-director John Michael McDonagh (The Guard, Calvary) returns with a distinctly lesser third film, albeit one that still wrings a solid number of laughs out of its familiar setup. Were it not for the sizzling Alexander Skarsgård-Michael Peña double act, though, this would be a far more fidgety sit.

Corrupt New Mexico cops Terry Monroe (Skarsgård) and Bob Bolano (Peña) have the game wired; perps are perpetually terrified of and victim to their self-serving judgments, and nobody dares to stand up to them…until they cross the wealthy Lord James Mangan (Theo James), at least.

If watched together, McDonagh’s trilogy of films create a severe tonal whiplash, vaulting from the sordid cop caper thrills of The Guard to the more somber (if still surely hilarious) drama of Calvary, and then back again. Like so many neo-noir joints, War on Everyone touts an eye-rollingly perfunctory narrative and is instead driven by the madcap buddy cop dynamic between its central characters.

To that end, the film works more often than not, a curious meshing of Hollywood genre tropes and McDonagh’s typical musings about life, death and the English language. It’s also as grimly violent and potty-mouthed as fans of the McDonagh brothers will reasonably expect.

While War on Everyone is ultimately a rather lightweight effort that doesn’t linger in the memory as long as you will probably want it to, the rat-a-tat dialogue and deliciously charismatic performances make it an entertaining sit all the same. Hell, even Theo James, the Divergent series’ resident block of wood, is a campy delight as the mustache-twirling British villain.

Hell, there are even well-developed female characters, with Tessa Thompson and Stephanie Sigman playing Peña and Skarsgård’s respective partners, giving McDonagh a perfect segue to beg the question – “can you be a feminist while wearing hot-pants?

Above all else it’s the distinctly loony exchanges between Bad Cop and the other Bad Cop (Good Cop is clearly away on leave) that distinguish this yarn from any number of Shane Black wannabee noirs. Not as ferocious as you might hope, but a fun, breezy jaunt all the same.

***

War on Everyone is in UK cinemas October 7th

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