War on Everyone tries to be Bad Lieutenant meets Bad Boys, which ends up being both an asset and fault. Although the dirty cop genre is certainly lightened up by the buddy cop formula, nearly everything about the film feels noncommittal while still being overwhelmingly derivative. Unlike the period throwback of last year’s The Nice Guys, War on Everyone only has stylistic references to 1970s action, while remaining in modern times. The violence, while often unabashedly immoral, is never shocking enough to match the level of attitude contained in John Michael McDonagh’s dialogue, resulting in a film that is more bark than bite. And had any other director attempted this, it may have felt less empty, but expectations have been raised for McDonagh after the success of his first two features.
Terry (Alexander Skarsgård) and Bob (Michael Peña) are two crooked cops with a bad reputation despite getting away with far worse than they have been caught doing by their Lieutenant (Paul Reiser). Somehow nobody seems to question how their exorbitant taste in clothing, cars, and homes is paid for, and the crooks that they steal from aren’t turning them in. After trying unsuccessfully to intercept the money from a heist, only to discover a criminal even more immoral than they are in a seemingly upstanding citizen named Lord James Mangan (Theo James), Bob and Terry are willing to throw their careers away to take him down.
Rather than showing us the morality of these corrupt cops, it actually just comes off as them stubbornly refusing to back down, even if it means the destruction of their careers. Terry and Bob are even willing to travel to
order to steal the money they see as rightfully belonging to them, even though
they have no more right than those who stole it. This is the scattershot nature
of McDonagh’s film, randomly hitting a successful note for every few that are
missed. It isn’t a bad film so much as it feels sloppier than the last two from
the director, including a far more successful buddy copy film in The Guard. Iceland
Despite the extremely politically incorrect dialogue in the film, and a plethora of unsavory characters, the mildness of the actual action sequences makes it feel far tamer than one might expect. Although far more comical in its approach, even The Nice Guys wasn’t afraid to shock with some of the sequences of violence. War on Everyone isn’t tame, but manages to be somewhat forgettable for its unwillingness to raise the stakes in a climactic shootout sequence. Without the deeper concepts of his past two films or the exploitation of action sequences, War on Everyone ends up feeling like a minor effort from McDonagh, despite an admirable effort to try something different.
The Blu-ray combo pack comes with three ways to watch the film, but fails to impress with special features. Along with the high definition disc, there is also a DVD copy and a Digital HD copy. The only extra on the disc itself is a featurette with comments from the cast about the film.
Entertainment Value: 7/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 7/10
Historical Significance: 6/10
Special Features: 3/10