War on Everyone
Dir: John Michael McDonagh
After only two films John Michael McDonagh became a director to look out for, I love his films, they're unique, striking, honest and something the film industry needs a bit more of. However, I feel he's stumbled somewhat with his third venture. I don't know if it was the move to unfamiliar surroundings or not, it certainly didn't do his brother any favours when he (Martin McDonagh) went from the brilliant In Bruges to the not so brilliant Seven Psychopaths. That said, it's not all his fault, as director he has to take full responsibility but the performances weren't great, and neither was the casting. I have no issue with Michael Peña, I remain a loyal fan of his but Alexander Skarsgård just didn't suit the role. I like dark humour and I liked much of the dark humour in this film but at times it came close to crossing the line, quite unnecessarily and it was hardly ever that funny. I couldn't tell whether the Islamic jokes were there because they are topical or if they were attempts at droll satire aimed at the current spate of Islamophobia, I suspect they were (I hope they were!) but when attempting such things you need to make it clear. Satire isn't something you can get mostly right, it is something you have to get exactly right, otherwise it doesn't work and you can't call it satire - sparkling wine made outside of Champagne is just sparkling wine. If War on Everyone were a sparkling wine it would be flat and too alcoholic to enjoy. It almost feels aggressive, antagonistic, out to prove something the viewer is never made aware of. I liked the deconstruction of the typical 'buddy-cop' movie, the fact they do next to no police work and get away with it for example, but surely the duo need to have a convincing friendship and a lively chemistry? The performances don't portray this and neither does the script. Theo James looks good in colourful clothes and can play it straight but it doesn't make him a particularly impressive or fearsome villain. He was a better bad guy in The Inbetweeners. The character development is fairly non-existent, it is the under-used supporting characters that are the film's highlight. Caleb Landry Jones is great as Birdwell, a fairly androgynous deviant who raises more questions than the film put together, and Malcolm Barrett and David Wilmot are great as Reggie and Pádraic Power, a couple of unlikely small time partners in crime. All the laughs come from David Wilmot, it is where McDonagh's comedic writing talents lay and I don't know why he didn't make better use of it. By no means am I suggesting a director of enormous talent like McDonagh shouldn't try new things, I just don't think they should try to be something they're not, which seems to be the case here. You could say it was original but I would argue that there is a reason for that; it's disjointed, detached, awkward, unengaging, and charmless. Poorly conceived at best.