War on Everyone (2016): Too Dark for Audiences? Nah, I Loved It



Terry Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård): Like I always say, Bob, if it ain’t broke… break it


'War on Everyone' Official Trailer (2016)



After the critical success of director John Michael McDonagh’s previous two pictures – The Guard (2011) and Calvary (2014), there were high expectations for 2016’s black comedy War On Everyone. Reviews were mixed, but I’ve come to appreciate the picture’s unique charms on repeated viewing.


Negative reviews included:

  • “Crass, senseless, and relentlessly talky, War on Everyone mostly seems like a movie at war with itself.  Entertainment Weekly
  • “Mr. McDonagh’s palette and spleen remain mostly intact, but here he’s neglected to include a story or point. NYT
  • “With Alexander Skarsgard and Michael Pena playing the inevitably maverick, rule-breaking pair of cops, McDonagh seems oblivious to how many times this sort of ultra-black, ultra-violent comedy has been done before. And done better. Mail on Sunday
  • So hackneyed, tired, labored and overstuffed with contempt not only for all of its targets but also its own self that one gets the feeling that the talented Mr. McDonagh has gone mad with rage. RogerEbert.com


Getting back to the movie; Alexander Skarsgård and Michael Peña star as corrupt Albuquerque detectives Monroe* and Bolaño, who breeze through life ripping off criminals and boozing – until they face nemesis in the shape of the boring guy from the Divergent movies (Theo James, very good in this though) as a crooked English aristocrat and his repellent sidekick Caleb Landry Jones, whose face in the movie is just begging for a punch. Much like his annoying fizzog in 2017’s Get Out.


Theo James and creepy Caleb Landry Jones


WAR ON EVERYONE , Alexander Skarsgård , Michael Peña, Caleb Landry Jones


Without spoiling the plot, it turns out Skarsgård and Peña aren’t quite as irredeemable as we first think. A strong cast is rounded out by the ever-watchable Paul Reiser and then rising star Tessa Thompson.


The soundtrack provides some delights including Monroe’s love of classic-era Glen Campbell and the inclusion of the very wonderful Non E’ Niente by Catherine Spaak:


Catherine Spaak - Non è niente (1964)


Although some critics mistakenly likened War on Everyone as a riff on 80s/90s buddy cop movies such as Lethal Weapon and Bad Boys, I see much more of a 70s vibe, comparable to the likes of Hickey & Boggs (1972), Freebie & The Bean and Busting (both 1974).


Hickey & Boggs 1972 Trailer | Bill Cosby | Robert Culp

Freebie and the Bean (1974) Official Trailer - Alan Arkin, James Caan Movie HD

Busting (1974) Movie Trailer - Elliott Gould, Robert Blake, Allen Garfield & Sig Haig


Some may even see hints of  re-heated Tarantino – or even (God forbid) Guy Ritchie but the comparison is pretty much inevitable in any (semi) literate crime comedy comedy since Reservoir Dogs (1992). There must be a dark streak within the McDonagh family as his younger brother Martin is also a playwright/director and of course responsible for the great movie trifecta of In Bruges (2008), Seven Psychopaths (2012) and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017).


So, check out War on Everyone, it’s a (ahem) grower. I would like to say ‘or your money/time back’ but nah, I won’t.


Lt. Gerry Stanton (Paul Reiser): Welcome back boys. How did we enjoy our sabbatical?

Bob Bolaño (Michael Peña) : It was very pleasant. It was very relaxing. I masturbated a lot.

Lt. Gerry Stanton: Enforced sabbatical, I should have said.

Terry Monroe: What’s a sabbatical?

Lt. Gerry Stanton: Okay. So, Laurel and Hardy here, huh? Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

Bob Bolaño: Siegfried and Roy. Sacco and Vanzetti. Abelard and Heloise.

Terry Monroe: Is this a quiz?

Lt. Gerry Stanton: No, it’s not a quiz. This is your last chance, okay?


*first film the character ever saw – Doc Savage Man of Bronze



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Stephen Arnell

Culture Comment Content Provider. Portrait courtesy of artist Darren Coffield. 'Non satis me tempo'