War on Everyone: Badder boys
by David González
- BERLIN 2016: The conventional but occasionally inventive new feature by John Michael McDonagh toys with the genre of the roguish and light-hearted buddy movie
No, the United Kingdom has not suddenly become a blinding white wilderness of tracksuit-wearing pool players, mafia-run strip clubs, vast plains dotted with glimmering lights in the middle of the night, and all the drugs and violence you could ever wish for. Despite being entirely produced with funding from the UK (mainly from London-based Reprisal Films), War on Everyone [+see also:
film profile], the new movie by British director of Irish descent John Michael McDonagh, presented in the Panorama Special section of the 66th Berlinale, immerses us in New Mexico – that New Mexico that Breaking Bad first introduced us to. A wasteland in the United States with all the aforementioned ingredients, where McDonagh really lets himself go in a frenzy of inventive dialogue, frenetic editing and deadpan (albeit stylised) humour.
And so Albuquerque serves as the backdrop for the story of Terry Monroe (Alexander Skarsgard) and Bob Bolaño (Michael Peña), a couple of cops (a couple in terms of both their profession and their friendship, we may be forgiven for thinking) who have incorporated bribery, police abuse, corruption and, in general, contempt for their neighbour into their everyday life. And that doesn't just mean in their relationship (or rather, lack thereof) with the civilians around them, but also with the family (specifically, that of Bob, whose father-son abilities are highly dubious ethically speaking), and especially with their informers (the pair of tracksuit-wearing pool players mentioned earlier) and their enemies (headed up by an androgynous club manager, played magnificently by Caleb Landry Jones, and a young Englishman of noble birth, Lord James Mangan, played by Theo James). It is in the pickle that Terry, Bob and Lord Mangan's entourage get themselves into that McDonagh finds the perfect excuse to give free rein to his urge to deliver a hyperactive approach to the police comedy genre, via the buddy movie and an uninhibited take on the violence that already, in this day and age, is no stranger to every viewer's retinas.
And this violence is, above all, comedy: as it happens, the film opens with the pair of cops running over a mime artist – obviously without the latter uttering a single word. McDonagh's humour seeps from the movie over its entire running time, in fact a great deal more than the blood does: the jokes are not afraid to take on racism, disability or misogyny, all from a heterosexual, white and hostile point of view. The director channels this verbosity, which is nonetheless both witty and clever, through his commendable inventiveness with the visuals: certain scenes convey a fondness for composition and colour, even stretching as far as to incorporate Christina’s World, a painting by Andrew Wyeth, as a nod to solitude and the possible mystery surrounding it. But nothing could be further from the truth: War on Everyone's sole raison d'être is to entertain the viewer, from the outset right until the very end. What it offers does not hinge on anything particularly innovative, but the murders, muddles and especially the funny stories involving these two rebellious bad boys have no problem holding the interest of whoever wishes to take a step closer to their world of corruption.
(Translated from Spanish)