Terry (Alexander Skarsgård) and Bob (Michael Peña) are two corrupt cops working in New Mexico. They’re constantly in trouble with their boss (Paul Reiser), are quick to threaten informants to get information, and aren’t above brutally beating a criminal before they finally take them in. When they catch wind of a robbery with a 1 million dollar payoff, they want to be sure they’re the ones who walk away with the cash. This puts them in the sights of Lord James Mangan (Theo James) and his lackey Birdwell (Caleb Landry Jones), who aren’t above destroying the lives of anyone who stands in their way. As Terry and Bob get closer to figuring out who is behind the heist, they find some disturbing details about the lives of Mangan and Birdwell which will force them to make a tough decision about the lines they’re willing to cross to stop criminals.
At just over 90 minutes, it can take a little too long for War on Everyone to figure out what it really wants to be. For the first half of the film, it feels as if writer/director John Michael McDonagh is trying to capture his version of a Tarantino film. It manages to mostly work because of Skarsgård and Peña’s performances, but it always feels like it will come in second to anything Tarantino puts out.
About halfway through, War on Everyone finds its own voice, and it starts to become something much more interesting. While the first half feels like a goofy ’70s cop show placed into an R rated world, the second half becomes more serious, dark, and twisted. Skarsgård’s character starts to take centre stage and we get to see into his life a little more, which is perfect because he’s the most interesting character in the film. It’s here that the film finally becomes the dark and grimy cop movie it should be.
Is War on Everyone essential festival viewing?
It takes longer than it should to really get into the film, but once you reach the halfway point, War on Everyone becomes the kind of crooked cop movie that fans will love.