Review: War on Everyone starring Alexander Skarsgard & Michael Pena

War on Everyone starring Alexander Skarsgard & Michael Pena
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PLOT: Two misanthropic New Mexico cops (Michael Pena & Alexander Skarsgård) on the verge of being fired for their corrupt ways, go on the trail of a missing million dollar score, winding up face-to-face with an English mobster (Theo James) who’s even worse than they are.

REVIEW: WAR ON EVERYONE truly feels like a movie only a guy like John Michael McDonagh would have had the stones to make. Best known for CALVARY and THE GUARD, WAR ON EVERYONE feels very much in the mold of the latter, although this time his cop anti-heroes go way further than Brendan Gleeson’s relatively sweet Irish copper ever did. Playing like a gonzo tribute to classic asshole cop movies like FREEBIE & THE BEAN, Michael Pena & Alexander Skarsgård play two almost irredeemable anti-heroes.

war on everyone michael pena alexander Skarsgård

Their idea of good police work is threatening to plant a stash of coke on a snitch and then snorting it with him when he agrees to give them what they want. And what they want isn’t to bust any baddies – they just want enough cold, hard cash to finance their inevitable post-cop lives, with either a firing or jail sentence obviously in the cards for both. Even their angry police captain (none other than an against-type Paul Reiser) thinks they belong in the clink.

Given how morally reprehensible they are, it’s a tribute to how sharp McDonagh’s screenplay and the acting is that we want them to not only get away with their bad deeds, but also come out ahead. Maybe it’s the fact that while both are bad, neither is really evil. Pena’s a family man who, while sarcastic with his kids, gets along with them well enough and, in something only McDonagh could get away with, enjoys debating Simone de Beauvoir and modernist painting with his gorgeous wife (MISS BALA’s Stephanie Sigman). Skarsgård is the slightly loonier one, who also has a drop-dead gorgeous love interest, CREED’s Tessa Thompson, who looks pretty cute in her drum majorette costume.

So while neither really has a heart of gold, they’re not irredeemable, at least not compared to the two bad guys, a heroin-addicted English lord (Theo James – cast wildly against type and channeling eighties English villains like Simon MacCorkindale & Edward Mulhare) and his psycho-henchman (Caleb Landry Jones – appropriately over-the-top). Mostly only interested in his cash, the two anti-heroes do eventually have a moment of truth when they realize putting James and Landry-Jones down is more important than getting rich, but that’s delayed as long as possible and feels organic when it happens.

war on everyone michael pena alexander Skarsgård

Before the final orgy of righteous violence, we get lots of good set-pieces, including a full-on dance number for Skarsgård and Thompson set to “Rhinestone Cowboy” and a trip to Iceland. Pena and Skarsgård are well cast. Pena’s cynical, dry delivery is perfect, while Skarsgård, despite being a little too built for an alcoholic coke-head, is having the time of his life in a role as that really shows some range and bodes well for his career. I especially like the way the hulking Skarsgård always walks around hunched down in order to be at his normal-sized partner’s level.

Given how many movies wind up on VOD every week, it’s hard to really sift through the garbage to find a diamond in the rough, but this is that diamond. Having premiered at Berlinale last year, WAR ON EVERYONE, which got a European release in the fall, should have gotten more festival play and a major release like McDonagh’s last two movies. While destined to be underrated, it’s a real gem and a must-see for anyone who likes their action-comedies pitch-black and ultra-violent.

Source: Joblo.com



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