Hot Take: Sure looked like a lot of fun but this overly talkative mess is too tasteless. It’s a Tarantino or Shane Black knock-off with an untimely facetious approach to police brutality without a big enough entertainment yield.
It isn’t that War on Everyone is completely void of entertainment. When a movie opens with a pair of cops running down a mime, you might set your hopes high for something truly different. Wait, people actually think mime jokes are still funny? The pair of cops — Terry (Alexander Skarsgard) and Bob (Michael Pena) — are as bad as they want to be. They’re experts when it comes to blackmail and extortion of criminals. There’s the obligatory sit down with the police chief (Paul Reiser) where they promise not to be so bad and the immediate obligatory follow up scene where they’re doing coke in a pool hall bathroom with a perp they are trying to turn informant.
Writer-director John Michael McDonagh has his eyes on a Quentin Tarantino vibe. Maybe it’s Shane Black he’s trying to channel? It’s hard to tell but the vibe feels vaguely familiar but also off kilter since it’s really someone else’s wheelhouse. What you get is an amalgamation of Tarantino, Black, buddy cop and bad cop that is bereft of any real pizzazz. There are so many resemblances to Tarantino and Black, you can’t tell if the film is trying to copy the filmmakers or lampoon them. Therein lies the problem with War on Everyone. You can never tell if the film is trying to be a vilification of all the topics it makes joke about or it’s just a slimy film taking cheap shots at Muslims, fat people, drag queens, Stephen Hawking, multiple sclerosis, dyslexia, child pornography, strippers and a number of other topics that we’ve seen both parodied and exploited before. Here, we can’t quite tell which angle War on Everyone is taking. That’s a problem.
Credit Skarsgard and Pena with doing their best to drag this film out of the doldrums. Skarsgard’s performance as Terry has its moments. The often drunk or high brawny side of the bad cop duo is predictably unpredictable but Skarsgard’s aura gives the character a slight entertainment boost. Pena does lowbrow comedy about as well as anyone right now and while it might have been a better decision to refuse to play a character who curses profusely at his kids and breaks their X-Box just for fun, (Don’t worry, he steals one from one of their shakedown victims to replace it) he does have an occasional shining moment. The rest of the cast is made up of performances that are good but poorly written (Theo James as a Bond-esque villain and Caleb Landry Jones as his sidekick) or over-the-top stereotypical (Tessa Thompson as a cultured stripper) and the film feels out of place (and out of touch) in 2017 and would have made so much more sense if it were made in the 1990s.
War on Everyone proves that some films aren’t like wine. The comedy that War on Everyone tries to deliver feels outdated and out of touch. Unfortunately, this makes for a rather bumpy ride for the audience unless you’re okay with a cheap knock-off of the bad cop/buddy cop genre.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- There Are a Few Standout Scenes
Even though it makes no sense the film ends up on location in Iceland, when it is, the shots are rather impressive. It’s a matter of personal taste which other scenes you find to have tread on the tire and which ones are flat but there’s something insensitive that’ll likely strike a funny bone for each audience member. It just depends on which distasteful joke you feel guilty about laughing at.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- Remember the 90s?
If not, War on Everyone will deposit some memories in your bank account. That’s not necessarily a good thing because for every Pulp Fiction there were at least 3 (Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead, The Big Hit, Love and a .45… do I need to name more?) rip-offs that almost make you wish the genre was never born. But then you go back and watch Pulp Fiction again and all is well again.
- Talk, Talk, Talk
In between all of the bludgeoning and violent shoot outs is a lot of verbose, highbrow discussions sandwiched between vulgarity and lowbrow insults. It’s a lot to endure thanks to it being only sporadically funny.
- That Glen Campbell Soundtrack
Didn’t the quirky soundtrack go out with the 90s, too? Guess not.