SXSW Film Review: “War On Everyone”

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Michael Peña and Alexander Skarsgård | Credit: Photographer: Cathy Kanavy)

Before the second screening of “War On Everyone” held at SXSW today, film programmer Jim Kolmar

John Michael McDonagh - Director of War On Everyone

John Michael McDonagh – Director of War On Everyone

introduced it by saying, “If you have a moral compass, you might want to smash it on the ground.”

To say that Bob Bolano (Michael Pena, “Ant-Man”) and Terry Monroe (Alexander Skarsgard, “The Diary Of A Teenage Girl”) aren’t the world’s best cops is a massive understatement. The rules don’t seem to apply to these police partners, who bumble their way through cases skimming money from informants and bad guys. The movie opens with them in full speed pursuit…of a mime, running as fast as he can with a bag full of cash. Just another day on the job and more seized goodies that don’t seem to make it to the evidence locker.

“War On Everyone” is so over-the-top that some viewers may struggle with it, but it’s one of the funniest films I’ve seen in a very long time. Our two antiheroes are ultimately good guys at heart, they just prefer not to do much of anything by the book.

John Michael McDonagh previously mined similar territory for his 2011 debut “The Guard,” but he takes things to the next level here, transitioning from Ireland to Albuquerque, New Mexico (shot there, quite simply, to take advantage of tax credits). The film is outrageous and jaw-droppingly offensive, with Skarsgard and Pena absolutely milking every scene. It’s one of those rare movies where I not only laughed out loud multiple times but in one scene, I had to stop myself from doing a spit-take and covering half the row in front of me with soda when I made an ill-timed decision to take a drink.

The supporting cast includes the always phenomenal Tessa Thompson (“Creed”). She actually makes Skarsgard’s character more likable just by the sheer virtue of the fact that she seems to genuinely love him. When they temporarily end up with a young witness to a crime living with them, they create their own version of a nuclear family that provides a small glimpse into what their lives could be like if he were only to grow up, even if just a little bit. Comedian Paul Reiser also makes a surprisingly profane appearance as the police chief in charge of the duo.

This is one of those movies that is going to play better with the less you know about it, so as long as you are not easily offended (and especially if you enjoyed “The Guard” or “Calvary”), this is one you won’t want to miss.

Final screening: 10 p.m. Friday, Alamo Ritz


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