Directed By: John Michael McDonagh
Starring: Alexandar Skarsgard, Michael Pena, David Wilmot.
Rating: 3.5/5 Coronas
John Michael McDonagh famously appears and disappears accordingly every few years. Each time with a new expression through a philosophical, existentially damaged character. First we had The Guard, the rogue cop. Then Calvary, the only person who can see sense in a maddened modern time, and now War On Everyone- two cops above the law and completely and utterly under the influence.
Having read through the recent reviews, especially the Irish publications, its easy to see many are still bitter about McDonagh’s previous comments on Irish films. We obviously found it bewildering when McDonagh made these comments and it certainly made many feel alienated from him considering the bulk of his work has taken place here in Ireland. It’s fairly obvious these critics found it hard to leave their feelings at the door. Something that is an absolute necessity for this movie. Its pretty funny that most of the negative criticism is that the film is offensive considering it was marketed largely on the fact that it is offensive and controversial.
Nothing is sacred here. No religion, race, sexual orientation or tolerance to cocaine is left un-touched by the film’s path of deep cutting and dark humour. We, however, are (im)mature enough to leave our feelings at the door and bring you a level headed analysis of this film. We were even lucky enough to attend the premiere in Dublin’s Light House cinema. (Check our Twitter out @ReelTimeDublin for photos of the night!)
Despite the set up, it is definitely the lightest of the three. When I still worked in a cinema I used to make a point to be in the screen for when Calvary ended- the silence was haunting. The Guard was no different. The Guard was the highest grossing domestic Irish film ever for a reason. They both followed a path to an almost helpless and sad ending. It was futile to hope it would be any different. In War On Everyone, however, it’s very much a ‘Hollywood’ ending. With every wrapped up in a nice, bloody, nordic package. It could be because this was a film based and set in America, but there isn’t the snappiness that usually comes with McDonagh’s writing. This may be due to the talent not being versed enough in rambling dark dialogue and cynicism- very much a trait of Irish humour I think. Branching out is inevitable and you can’t be a cult filmmaker forever- I think this is the start of more ‘big name, big budget’ films for him, with that comes compromise though and we may not see the classic darkness we’re used to.
That’s not to say this film isn’t one that gets the gears turning in your head. There’s a lot of philosophical symbolism and juxtaposing- the best way I can describe the two characters are anarchistic nihilists. Nothing matters, and they’re above everything- I think that’s a comment on how the ‘philosophically enlightened’ live in their own reality. In one excellent, offensive and intimidating scene our two protagonists unleash a surprise interrogation of the insultingly handsome Theo James; they make the comment that ‘he’s in their world’.
Everything about the character’s reactions and behaviour suggests some twisted Buddhist like un-attachment to everything- particularly Terry, who lives alone in an almost empty apartment. A love interest suddenly brings twisted meaning to his life and he becomes more well rounded as a person as the film develops but I really think there’s a lot more to this than meets the eye. On a first glance it comes across as a template buddy cop film with damaged characters. On a second glance you realise it’s a lesson on not giving a fuck, about anything- which is harder than it seems. That said- I have a counter argument to this. I’ve been exposed to this film quite a bit and I’ve had time to think about it. I think, like Deadpool- the characters are aware they’re in a film. They’re just too irreverent and self aware to not be. I can’t expand on this theory further without dishing out spoilers but keep that in mind when you go to see it- it gives a very interesting angle to view the action through.
The casting is excellent, and I have a lot of respect for Alexandar Skarsgard after learning that he landed the role after a clip of him drunk out of his mind leading a chant at a football match did the rounds on YouTube. Tessa Thompson stands out as almost unrecognisable and quite a stark difference from her role in Creed- this could be her flexing her ‘smart acting’ abilities. Particular mention needs to be given to David Wilmot who just runs away with every scene he’s in- he’s matured a lot in his acting ability since we’ve last seen him and strangely enough he doesn’t play up the ‘Irish’ thing in this role as much as he did in other films with McDonagh.
The biggest gripe we have with the film is that it drops it’s narrative late into the film and instead takes a by the numbers final showdown and shootout. The reasoning for it comes out of nowhere and feels unearned and lazy considering the sharp writing throughout. It’s far too much of a Hollywood ending for a McDonagh film although he still incorporates his dark wit throughout. The Nice Guys pretty much did the same thing but Shane Black’s excellent script never truly put its focus on it’s plot and was more than aware of it.
If you’re easily offended, then don’t go see this film, in fact if your easily offended then lighten the fuck up. If you can’t grasp the concept that dark themes can be made of mockery or made light of then maybe you should just wrap up in Bubble-wrap and hide in your comfort zone. If you enjoyed Deadpool and The Guard then give it a go- it’s a bit of a justice porn piece with a questionable moral compass and there’s nothing wrong with that!