Writer/director John Michael McDonagh is not to be confused with his playwright/writer/director brother Martin, although both went slightly nuts when they went to Hollywood, with Martin following up his very fine In Bruges with the wild, crazy and all-over-the-shop Seven Psychopaths and John progressing from The Guard and Calvary to this, which couldn’t be more different from his earlier, saner work. Some are suggesting that he should never have left Ireland, and yet this unfocussed, scattershot comedy-of-sorts is full of striking bits and unbridled performances, even if it never, ever works as anything like a rational whole.
Two bad Albuquerque cops spend their time chasing down petty crims, enjoying the rush and secretly pocketing all the proceeds, and much mileage is gained from the odd-couple casting of the very tall and Swedish-looking Alexander Skarsgård (as the single, slightly strange Terry Monroe) and short, bespectacled Mexican-American Michael Peña (as fast-talking family-man Bob Bolaño), even though Skarsgård was a last-minute replacement for someone else (who would have been considerably less effective).
Introduced running down a mime artist, we’re with these guys as they pursue some very nasty dudes, piss off boss Lt. Gerry Stanton (Paul Reiser), talk about philosophy and existentialism (???), and finally and half-accidentally get themselves embroiled in a hard-to-get-your-head-around web of danger that surrounds murderous and drag-addled horseracing magnate Lord James Mangan (Theo James) and his vile offsider Russell Birdwell (Caleb Landry Jones in a truly ghastly characterisation).
Less about a coherent plot, this is more concerned with elaborately throwaway jokes (a setpiece involving women in burkas playing tennis is just part of various un-PC threads), fairly graphic violence and a weird vein of anti-Hollywood sentiment, and while Alexander and Michael are cool (and Tessa Thompson impresses as Terry’s new gal-pal Jackie Hollis), just about everyone else here is despicable or ridiculous – or both. And what the Hell was McDonagh thinking when he has our ‘heroes’ chat about movies and Peña quips, “If you ain’t got a good script, you ain’t got shit!”??? He’s got a point, Officer…