War on Everyone (3 stars)

War on Everyone

John Michael McDonagh delivers an amusing, albeit slightly disappointing tale of corrupt cops on the road to redemption

After his celebrated debut The Guard and the equally revered follow-up Calvary, writer-director John Michael McDonagh stumbles as he makes his first foray into American moviemaking. War on Everyone similarly deals with cops that walk a fine line between upholding and breaking the law but, while Brendan Gleeson's performance in The Guard brought poignancy and pathos to the table, War on Everyone feels more like pastiche, filching from Starsky & Hutch, Pulp Fiction and more besides.

Alexander Skarsgård and Michael Peña play Terry Monroe and Bob Bolaño, two out-for-themselves New Mexico cops who think nothing of casual violence, drug-taking and petty larceny in their everyday (dereliction of) duties. While an increasingly alcohol dependent Terry lives alone, in a sleek minimalist pad, Bob has a family to contend with – though judging by the scene where he breaks his kid's Xbox for kicks, it hasn't softened him.

There's a labyrinthine plot involving Theo James's arrogant aristocrat, the mastermind behind a racetrack heist that initially lures in our two antiheroes, hopeful of making a quick buck. Other notables include Caleb Landry Jones as a fey strip-club owner and Creed's Tessa Thompson as Jackie, a former exotic dancer who swiftly transitions into Terry's love interest (and there's little Thompson can do to sharpen the edges here).

McDonagh's instinct for twisted absurdist humour serves him well – typified by the opening scene as Terry and Bob mow down a cocaine-smuggling mime artist. If it had stayed in this realm, War on Everyone could have worked. But amid a very violent third act, McDonagh's insistence on wrapping up the plot with the leading men suddenly gaining consciences rather spoils proceedings. With a misjudged, ill-fitting child abuse subplot shoehorned in to offer redemption for Terry in particular, the film takes a disappointing nosedive in the final reel.

General release from Fri 7 Oct.

War on Everyone

  • 3 stars
  • 2016
  • UK
  • 1h 38min
  • 15
  • Directed by: John Michael McDonagh
  • Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Michael Peña, Stephanie Sigman, Theo James
  • UK release: 30 September 2016

Terry Monroe (Skarsgård) and Bob Bolaño (Peña) are two reckless New Mexico cops who think nothing of casual violence, drug taking and petty larceny. McDonagh stumbles on his third feature; the twisted sense of humour is mostly intact but the third-act lurch into seriousness and a child abuse subplot feel shoehorned..