WAR ON EV­ERY­ONE

Empire (UK) - - ON SCREEN - NICK DE SEMLYEN

DIREC­TOR John Michael Mcdon­agh CAST Michael Peña, Alexan­der Skars­gård, Tessa Thomp­son, Theo James

PLOT Cor­rupt cops Terry Mon­roe (Skars­gård) and Bob Bo­laño (Peña) have a cushy life­style, fram­ing hood­lums and steal­ing nar­cotics as they pa­trol their beat in Albuquerque. But when an evil Bri­tish lord (James) pings onto their radar, they find them­selves in way, way over their heads.

“IT STARTS AND ends with the script,” says one lowlife to an­other in War On Ev­ery­one, as they dis­ap­prov­ingly watch a low-grade porn flick. “If you ain’t got a good script, you ain’t got shit.” For­tu­nately, the per­son who wrote and di­rected this coal-dark crime comedy is John Michael Mcdon­agh, the Ir­ish au­teur be­hind The Guard and Cal­vary. Both of those films are mor­dantly funny, un­pre­dictable and set on the rain­moist­ened Emer­ald Isle. With his third fea­ture,

he has shifted lo­cales to sun-baked New Mex­ico; but thank­fully Mcdon­agh’s de­light­ful weird­ness re­mains in­tact.

War On Ev­ery­one is a spin on maybe the most hack­neyed genre of them all, the bud­dy­cop movie. The cus­tom­ary tropes are all in place: Terry (Skars­gård) and Bob (Peña) ride around in their ice-blue Monte Carlo coupe bick­er­ing and stop­ping for cheese­burg­ers, re­port­ing in spo­rad­i­cally to their grouchy su­pe­rior (Paul Reiser). There’s a foot chase orig­i­nat­ing in a strip club and sound­tracked by a Fun Lovin’ Crim­i­nals track, while an­other scene riffs on Bev­erly Hills Cop. But for ev­ery mo­ment that seems de­riv­a­tive, there’s a win­ningly ab­surd sce­nario or in­spired touch. Terry and Bob, whose names may or may not be a trib­ute to The Likely Lads, are in­tro­duced in hot pur­suit of a mime. (“I’ve al­ways won­dered… if you hit a mime, does he make a sound?” pon­ders Terry, shortly be­fore find­ing out.) There’s also a silly run­ning joke in­volv­ing our heroes’ on­go­ing feud with a SWAT team.

The bad-to-the-bones lead duo are joy­ously over-the-top: Terry, who has thrush and swigs bot­tles of beer at break­fast, is a law­man so ex­ces­sively im­moral he even out­does Chief Wig­gum from the fa­mous ‘Bad Cops’ skit in

The Simp­sons, while Bob makes for a fine foil as the fam­ily-man part­ner who’s far from squeaky-clean him­self. The stars are clearly hav­ing fun, too — this is re­demp­tion for Skars­gård af­ter his bland-tarzan mis­step this summer. The vil­lains they’re up against, mean­while, are in­ten­tion­ally a lot less funny, but mem­o­rably pe­cu­liar. Theo James, best known for his role in the Di­ver­gent se­ries, comes close to steal­ing the whole show as louche, Homer­lit­er­ate aris­to­crat-scum­bag James Man­gan, not least be­cause he dom­i­nates the best shot of the movie as a Steadicam prowls with him through his de­bauched man­sion. Only a late re­veal in­volv­ing him is mis­judged, so bleak that it threat­ens to tip over the whole movie.

There are other flaws: some scenes aren’t nearly as funny as they think they are (an ex­change about Steven Soder­bergh’s Out Of

Sight starts and ends with­out scor­ing a laugh) and the plot it­self fails to build up much in the way of sus­pense. But Mcdon­agh — cut­ting with old-school line-wipes, crank­ing up the Glen Camp­bell — is clearly hav­ing a blast. The feel­ing’s con­ta­gious.

VER­DICT A think­ing per­son’s Bad Boys, this off-kil­ter in­die crime comedy in­tro­duces two deliri­ously warped law­men to the screen. Here’s to a Cuba-in­vad­ing se­quel.

Michael Peña and Alexan­der Skars­gård: bad at be­ing cops, great at mu­si­cal stat­ues.

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