“Are you from the precinct?”
“We’re from hell baby”
After loving The Nice Guys (2016), I was in the mood for some more (good) buddy cop movies. In browsing through Netflix I came across War On Everyone, which didn’t strike me as a comedy based on it’s Netflix promotional photos but more of a seriously toned drama. So when I got 60 seconds in and I was watching a mime being run over I had to quickly readjust to what I was settling in for.
War On Everyone follows the immensely driven asshole cops Bob Bolaño (Michael Peña) and Terry Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård) who are back from suspension after assaulting a fellow (racist) cop. The pair are as corrupt as they come robbing criminals, taking drugs, accepting bribes and so on. In doing so they become tangled up in
Outside of being the worst police have to offer, there’s not much more to these two. Bad for bad’s sake and its hard to believe these morons ever wanted to become police officers in the first place. Never mind actually hold down the job after hearing and seeing some of the things they get up to throughout the film. If you do manage to suspend disbelief (congratulations are in order) there are a couple laughs to be had but I found more jokes fell flat. The one that sticks to mind is Bob and Terry’s boss bluntly stating he was married to a ‘chink’, it’s not clever it just relies on you being utterly bewildered at the blunt racism. I will admit the dinner scene the pair have with Theo James’ character (the villain, I forget his name) was pretty funny but that’s only a couple funny lines out of 100 minutes worth of dialogue.
Speaking of dialogue, the film is also extremely talkative as far as cop movies go, more time discussing backstories and setting up villains in the first half hour than is necessary. Yet despite all this talking I still didn’t feel like caring for any of the characters so I find the film really achieved nothing. It didn’t entertain me with action nor have me route for our anti-heroes in their quest.
When you finally get some action you’re disappointed its just a simple sucker punch. Or Bob and Terry walking into a crime that’s already happened. Then when some actual action starts, its an unimaginative foot chase through public areas where the public look completely uninterested that two cops are exchanging gunfire with a criminal. It’s really difficult to get yourself on board when you don’t care about the characters and the extras mimic that sentiment.
If you love your cheesy one-liners and you can stomach the erratic pacing I wouldn’t write this off. Put it on in the background if you’re really struggling to find something on Netflix. But it’s just not my thing and after the cleverness of The Nice Guys or the spectacle of the Jump Street series I struggled to find redeeming qualities for War On Everyone. I wouldn’t lose sleep if you told me you hadn’t seen this film, its as unimportant as movies get.
The tried and tested buddy cop trope has been pretty rough to be a fan of recently. Ride Along and it’s sequel come to mind, although I like both the leads the story was mediocre and relied too heavily on it’s stars to pull an audience to laugh at them. The Nice Guys however gives Gosling and Crowe much better writing to work with and the comedy is clever, both visually and dialogue driven and gives the actors (even those outside of the front two) some great moments to shine in.
Following the death of a porn actress, March (Gosling) and Healy (Crowe) cross paths in their search and through mutual goals team up to find her. Running into the lowest, trashiest LA have to offer in the process. Yet finding self worth in this work these two have clearly lacked for the better part of their lives.
It’s just as crude, if you like that in your humour, but doesn’t use cheap ways to make you chuckle. Baring maybe the kid proclaiming he has a big dick. Crowes straight face, hard man attitude bounces off Gosling’s warmer yet gormless character really well. I’d be doing the film an injustice if I didn’t mention the performances of Beau Knapp and Holly March, who more than hold their own.
The set design is immaculate and provides great for smooth, tension building action set pieces that are a pleasure to watch. I’m not surprised I liked this film because it shares a lot with Drive (2011), same location, lead actor and although the genre and narratives are completely different the style is still there.
The intrigue comes from how these two (let’s face it) idiots will go to great lengths to do their job. And in doing so go from completely hating each other to teaming up over a hatred of the scum around them. I have to say, it’s nice to know the buddy cop film hasn’t dissolved completely, so long as there’s a chemistry and heart to it that makes you care more about what’s happening on screen than where the next dick joke is coming from.
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn and based on a book of the same name by James Sallis released in 2005, Drive is the film I always think of first when I’m asked about my all time favourites.
The film’s premise sounds like a lot of films you’ve probably seen before. A highly skilled unnamed (we’ll call him Driver, imaginative I know) stunt driver by day utilises his astute abilities in the night as a getaway driver for small time criminals. After developing a strong bond with his neighbour Irene and her son, the driver looks to protect them by offering his expertise to Irene’s recently released from prison husband who owes a large amount of money for the protection he received during his time behind bars.
Now I personally find what sets Drive apart from the crowded action movie market is it’s ability to tell a story by showing rather than telling. The Driver is a quite character and his love for Irene is portrayed not through dialogue, but rather through sincere gestures and looks between the two characters. It’s a minimalist approach to romance that is refreshing and makes you really believe Driver is doing what he does best to improve the lives of those he cares about. A genuine motivation rather than action for actions sake that creates investment into the high stakes drama that only rises in tension as the film goes on.
All of this set in the backdrop of Los Angeles. Stylish shots, neon colours and a strong, pop/techno soundtrack creates a neo-noir tone that immerses you into the hectic world that The Driver does his best to make sense of. You get the impression Driver is taken advantage of by his employers, criminals and anyone else that can profit from him, often violently. But, he is truly happy behind the wheel and if he benefits himself from his driving he is happy. And even happier still to do so for the few he cares about.
Plot backed by brilliant performances from Ryan Gosling, Bryan Cranston and Christina Hendricks who would each steal their scenes if the talent wasn’t as consistent throughout, I was completely on board with the premise and motivations. This made the impact of every characters actions hit home and made me really route for Driver to come out on top. He’s not saving the world, he’s doing everything he can to make himself happy.
Drive teaches us not all action/thriller films have to be mindless. Showing, not telling, us why we should care at all puts this film up there with the best in my mind. Creating motivations we can get behind makes the action worth watching rather than being dazzled by explosive set pieces or shocked at gory violence. Why should you watch Drive? Because every scene hits home. Style, substance and immersion makes every moment one you cant take your eyes off, for the characters drive the action. Not the other way around.