War on Everyone is an American buddy cop movie made by a Brit. This etic view on a classic American genre is an odd pastiche of eras and tropes, mixing gritty British crime drama with 70's action sensibilities, but it works.
Michael Pena and Alexander Skarsgard are a couple of bad boy cops, but unlike their cinematic counterparts who operate on the fringe, Bob and Terry work well outside the law. In fact, the movie begins with them coming back from suspension and being threatened with dismissal if they don't shape up. Unconcerned, the pair manipulate their way to a big score. Lives are turned upside down and no lessons are learned, but War on Everyone isn't a subversive film. Really, it's more of a reflection of a buddy cop movie.
To suggest the film lacks any kind of depth or redemption undermines how McDonagh's film critiques buddy cop movies. War on Everyone is an outsider's take on your Lethal Weapons, your Tango and Cashes, and your Bad Boys. But instead of a mismatched pair of renegade cops who are still governed by a strong sense of right and wrong and desire to catch bad guys, you have the perfect partnership of corrupt cops who are looking to benefit from all the crime in their community. Despite these failings, Bob and Terry aren't bad people—just bad cops. Bob cares for his family, and Terry does right by a former stripper and a runaway kid.
War on Everyone
John Michael McDonagh
Michael Pena, Alexander Skarsgard, Tessa Thompson, Malcolm Barrett, Theo James
7 October 2016
Rachel's Grade: B
Recall to mind Alan Tudyk's line from Dollhouse, “This is like one of those buddy cop movie where you're the hard-nosed FBI agent and I'm the guy who hates buddy cop movies.” War on Everyone is kind of like that. It's a film made by a man who clearly has a fondness for action and crime flicks, but maybe doesn't care for the moralizing that underscores a lot of mainstream American cinema.
Easily the best thing about War on Everyone is Pena and Skarsgard. Individually their characters are crass bastards, but their dynamic is unparalleled. It's so good, in fact, that scenes of them just hanging out overshadow the movie's plot. And the plot itself is a meandering tale of corruption and double-cross that sometimes takes a backseat to Bob and Terry's home life. The result is a film that feels a bit too long, but is still damn entertaining.
War on Everyone was preceded by short film Imitations, directed by Fabien Velasco and Milos Mitrovic. In it, a superfan undergoes plastic surgery to make himself look like X, the world's biggest pop star. His doctor warns him not to use too much medicinal cream post-surgery, but he doesn't listen. The result is equal parts disastrous and hilarious. Totally absurd, Imitations is a cautionary tale about idol worship and identity.