Wednesday, 23 November 2016

War On Everyone

John Michael McDonagh's latest film could not be further from his last, Calvary, which came out in 2014. Gone is the introspective brooding of that film, instead replaced by stylised gun violence and the lack for societal norms that you wished you had. That's what it seems like on the surface anyway. Deep down, War on Everyone presents a level of nihilism we haven't seen on screen since The Big Lebowski. While philosophy isn't the focus of the film, it plays a big part of who the characters are and justifies their actions.

Bob (Michael Peña) and Terry (Alexander Skårsgard) are two renegade police detectives who have just returned from a suspension they received for corruption, bribery and assault of a fellow police officer. Their newest pet project is blackmailing the shifty "Lord" James Mangan (Theo James) who is plotting a dark business venture with the shady Birdwell (Caleb Landry Jones). They recruit informant Reggie (Malcolm Barrett) to get as much information has he can, while they spend their time drinking, doing drugs and the minimal amount of police work possible. Terry starts a makeshift family with former stripper Jackie (Tessa Thompson) and runaway Danny (Zion Rain Leyba) in an attempt to emulate Bob's family life. 

If there's one thing you're going to do when watching this movie, it's laugh. McDonagh's razor sharp writing is fantastic and portrayed amazingly by both Peña and Skårsgard. Whether it's talking about the ease of finding a black man in Iceland or questioning whether a mime makes a sound if you hit him with your car, the movie is hilarious. McDonagh is also able to handle the issue of race in the United States, and particularly police shootings, with humour as well. The police captain, played by comedy veteran Paul Reiser, is relieved to find that the men shot by a SWAT team were all white, a very interesting, but also sad indictment on the nature of things at the moment. McDonagh also does something very cool with his use of other police officers in the movie, namely that there aren't any. The only connection we ever see Bob and Terry having to anything remotely police is their boss. It furthers their rogue status and makes them that bit more appealing.

This movie also shifts to some very dark elements. When we are first introduced to James Mangan, we see him shooting heroin in the back of a stable. This isn't glossed over in any way and we are shown it in an almost Trainspotting level of detail. Like his last film, McDonagh, handles the subject of child abuse again, although in a much, much darker way. And that's saying something considering Calvary was about the abuse of children by priests. Although it gets extremely dark, it doesn't take anything away from the comedy, in fact it makes you glad there is so much comedy in the film. The shifts that it makes toward the darker parts of the narrative aren't jarring or out of place, they flow in and out quite nicely. The characters, especially Terry, are driven by their central philosophy that nothing in the world has any meaning. He drinks, takes copious amounts of drugs, all because he believes that the world will go on regardless of how he acts. This is refreshing to see in the protagonist of a big budget movie. Alexander Skårsgard's hulking physique also aids this and his posture is an obvious remnant of his recent role as Tarzan.

War on Everyone isn't a movie Hollywood would make. It's dark, depressing and there are moments where you feel terrible for the characters. But there is never a moment where you don't want to be a part of the world in which the characters live. It's beautifully shot and funny as hell. Another must watch for everyone.

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