Sydney Film Festival Review: War On Everyone (UK, 2016)

Pausing from his planned trilogy of films with Brendan Gleeson – which has already seen the release of the brilliant The Guard (2011) and Calvary (2014) – English/Irish director John Michael McDonagh makes his debut outside of Ireland with the incredibly black comedy War on Everyone, starring Alexander Skarsgård and Michael Peña – who are both brilliant as apathetic police officers, serving only themselves as they leave a unique stamp on the world around them (to say the least).

Set in the US state of New Mexico – making this McDonagh’s first film set outside of Ireland – Alexander Skarsgård and Michael Peña play Terry and Bob, two police officers who are about as corrupt as you’ll find; more interested in kicking in some heads and filling their wallets than doing their jobs – that is until they come head to head with James Mangan (Theo James). Well, sort of.

This film is dark. It’s as far from “PC” as you’ll get. If you’re easily offended: this will not be for you. We hear quite a few people have walked out of screenings. But for the rest of us, it may be the most enjoyable and hilarious film you’ll see this year. Skarsgård and Peña are phenomenal in their roles, and hold it expertly on their shoulders. But the credit lies in McDonagh’s phenomenal script, which has given the pair some of the wittiest dialogue you’ll see on the screen this year, alongside a narrative that never fails to surprise (or maybe the word is… shock?).

Don’t watch any trailers, just go in with an open mind and enjoy. You may feel bad for laughing, but as it seems McDonaugh enjoys shining a light on the worst of humanity, it’s designed for just that reaction. This is a “War on Everyone”, after all, and so expect them to take aim at just that. And it’s a fantastic cinematic experience as a result.


War on Everyone screened as part of the Sydney Film Festival.

Part of this review was originally published during SXSW. From the same event, you can read our interviews with director John Michael McDonagh and star Alexander Skarsgård HERE.


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Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.