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article imageReview: ‘War on Everyone’ is inappropriately hilarious Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Oct 20, 2016 in Entertainment
‘War on Everyone’ is a contrary buddy cop comedy in which the duo spend most of their time looking out for themselves at everyone else’s expense.
When pondering the size of the universe, it can be interesting to wonder what an alien race completely unfamiliar with our customs and processes would think of the world. Things that make perfect sense to us may be entirely bewildering to them. However, it’s not really necessary to go beyond our universe to encounter such confusion. The Earth is populated with so many different cultures and nationalities, it’s easy to be confounded by another person’s traditions when they are not your own. The same can be said about movie genres. War on Everyone is U.K. director John Michael McDonagh’s interpretation of the American buddy cop comedy and it kind of puts the beloved genre into perspective.
Terry Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård) and Bob Bolaño (Michael Peña) are detectives, partners and friends. Bob is a family man, while Terry is an impulsive alcoholic — but they share their love of breaking the law as much as they’re supposed to uphold it. Not above excessive violence, bribery or threats, they get the job done and profit in the process. However their latest attempt to get a share of a robbery brings them into contact with a criminal mastermind (Theo James) and his sadistic lackey (Caleb Landry Jones). It turns out they’re into more than just money laundering and prostitution, leaving the corrupt duo no choice but to shut them down — for real.
At first glance this is a perverse interpretation of the genre, positioning the would-be heroes as no better than the crooks from whom they steal. But on closer examination, the conventions of the buddy cop comedy are all present — just somewhat exaggerated. Looking back at films like Lethal Weapon, Rush Hour and Bad Boys, Terry’s and Bob’s actions and personalities begin to look very familiar — though they’ve apparently broken the two-word title rule. Bob is more level-headed, takes pride in his family and tends to be slightly less reckless than his partner even though he wouldn’t hesitate to follow him into the fray. Terry always has a drink in his hand, is a bit of a loner and would do anything to protect those for whom he cares. Throughout the film he gradually takes on greater responsibility and finds greater meaning in his life. Taking these traditional traits to a more extreme level of absurdity and exploitation makes this film even more entertaining because McDonagh understands the formula enough to turn it upside down. Also, their exchanges with their lieutenant, played by Paul Reiser, are equally amusing.
Skarsgård and Peña have excellent chemistry, both playing their roles with the perfect balance of seriousness and irony. Hunched over, Skarsgård isn’t the poised Adonis he usually is, but isn’t quite a drunken mess either; his character’s physicality literally walks the line between honourable and miscreant. Peña is the more straight-laced of the pair, which isn’t always saying much. He frequently disseminates random yet relevant facts and suggests some level of caution even if it’s not heeded. Although they wear nearly identical suits, his is always neat and tucked. James’ villain is often in the background, which is where he likes to operate so he can maintain an air of legitimacy; but his Divergent character seems more dangerous than this guy. On the other hand, Jones is a captivating personality with a dandy wardrobe and slight flair for the dramatic.
McDonagh has exhibited his dark humour in previous pictures, but not quite with such acerbic and precise wit. It’s not so much that he doesn’t understand the genre, but rather that he does better than most. The film screened as part of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival.
Director: John Michael McDonagh
Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Michael Peña and Theo James
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