I’m such a huge fan of both of the McDonagh boys — playwright turned writer-director Martin (“In Bruges”, “Seven Psychopaths”) and his brother John Michael (“Calvary,” “The Guard”) that I’m willing to write-off “War on Everyone” as a pastiche that didn’t pay off.
It’s written and directed by John Michael McDonagh as a send-up of Quentin Tarantino, sort of a QT film created by an educated, literary-minded Irishman. It’s a fiasco, but there’s stiff the occasional riff, rant or reference that works.
It’s a modern-day “rogue cops” picture, set in Albuquerque amidst hoodlums, lowlifes, sand and unflattering sun. As in a Tarantino take on the subject, it’s built around characters trapped in the ’70s.
Detectives Terry Monroe (Alexander Skarsgard) and Bob Bolaño (Michael Peña) tool around town, swilling beers in a ’72 Monte Carlo, which Monroe is always crashing into bars they’re about to bust up, but is always fully restored by the next scene.
“I LOVE this car,” Monroe has to say, and who wouldn’t?
Monroe’s into old Glen Campbell tunes and lives in a designer house with a pool — in Albuquerque. How can he afford this?
They have a snitch, Reggie X (he’s converted to Islam) who isn’t keen on his role.
“Who am I? ” Reggie (Malcolm Barrett) wants to know. “Huggy Bear?”
They have a boss (Paul Reiser), the sort of commanding officer who is always railing at them.
“This is your LAST chance!”
They’re corrupt and cruel. Yeah, they do a few lines of blow with their snitch. Yeah, they’re trigger happy. Yeah, they steal from “the bad guys. And yeah, they run over a mime.
They have no morals or principles. Bust a crook who gets killed? One of them will take up with the dead guy’s girlfriend. She’s played by Tessa Thompson (“Creed”) in ’70s hair and hotpants.
The boys are after Mr. Big, a rich Brit punk (Theo James) called “Your Lordship” by his minions. There are gay underlings played by Caleb Landry Jones and David Wilmot, a sort of inclusive inclusion that almost has a point, at least as far as the plot’s concerned.
And all of it is pitched as a lark, a paint-by-numbers genre pic spiced up with McDonagh’s Tarantino-ish quips and long tirades. A character complains he can’t read their badges because he has dyslexia.
“Are you an actor? All actors seem to be dyslexic nowadays. Used to be called ‘stupidity.'”
And “You’re cops? Where are you guys from? What precinct?”
“We’re from Hell.”
And on and on, discourses on Simone de Beauvoir and Quaker ethics and the whether the “auteur” (director) Steven Soderbergh is Jewish or Swedish.
Minions use words like “contretemps” and the action is stopped for a game of tennis (doubles) with two Muslim women in full burqas.
It’s funny to see Peña playing the “smart funny partner” instead of the dumb one. Skarsgard brings nothing new to the alcoholic crooked cop cliche and Thompson has nothing to play but pretty pouty close-ups in various stages of undress.
McDonagh’s script is so ad hoc, so clumsily random, that nothing adds up to anything. There’s just violence and strip clubs and one-liners that are more clever than funny and Glen Campbell’s Greatest Hits and that lovely blue Monte Carlo.
Neither McDonagh brother (John Michael is the eldest) works often enough that their fans can afford a misfire of this magnitude. And while taking the Irish out of Tarantino is a worthy cause, you’re going to have to bring at least your B-game to that quip fight. This never rates as more than a D.
MPAA Rating: R for violence, sexuality/nudity, drug use and pervasive language
Cast:Alexander Skarsgard, Michael Peña, Tessa Thompson, Theo James, Paul Reiser
Credits:Written and directed by John Michael McDonagh. A Saban Films release.
Running time: 1:38