‘Focus’ – John Michael McDonagh




John Michael McDonagh is a film director / screenwriter that I have a lot of respect for and I am very excited as he has a new film that is being released this week – ‘War on Everyone’ which is being marketed as a black comedy / buddy cop film starring Alexander Skarsgård and Michael Peña as two corrupt policemen who blackmail and frame every criminal they cross paths with.

McDonagh first started off writing / directing with a short film in 2000 called ‘The Second Death’ before foraying into writing ‘Ned Kelly’. His first feature length film debut came in 2011 when he directed ‘The Guard’ starring Brendan Gleeson as a racist policeman who is forced to buddy up with a FBI agent played by Don Cheadle to investigate a drugs smuggling ring. ‘The Guard’ is excellent – it’s short, sharp and to the point whilst also being very witty and humorous and has stellar performances. This film also helped promote Ireland in terms of film and I love how it offers an insight into what the country is like (although a rather satirical view). The film was a big success and still holds the title as being the highest-grossing independent Irish film in terms of the Irish box office of all time.


‘Calvary’, McDonagh’s follow-up came in 2014 and once again reunited the director with Brendan Gleeson who’s performance is in my opinion, a career best. On first viewing, the film wasn’t really what I expected – it wasn’t really a comedy and was quite dark in places. However on subsequent rewatches, I’ve come to the conclusion that ‘Calvary’ is nearly a masterpiece. The story is touching and delves deeply into the subject of the Catholic Church and poses some astonishing ideas and a great script to boot. There are some wonderful sequences in the film that are beautifully shot and the characters are extremely well-developed. It’s one of my favourite films of 2014.


Although 2014 was only 2 years ago, it felt like an age until details of McDonagh’s next project surfaced. At first, he was meant to reunite with Brendan Gleeson on ‘The Lame Shall Enter First’ where he would play a paraplegic ex-policeman who gets caught up in a murder investigation. I hope this film still gets made as Gleeson and McDonagh are in my opinion as fitting a match as Leonardo DiCaprio is to Martin Scorsese.

That was until about a year ago when first details of ‘War on Everyone’ were released and then a trailer which looks set to continue McDonagh’s trademark thoughtful, comedic scripts. I am a little disappointed that Brendan Gleeson isn’t here but I think this film is important for McDonagh as this will hopefully project him to American audiences as this is his first feature to stray outside of Ireland.

In many ways, McDonagh has emulated his younger brother, Martin McDonagh who I think is just as good a director if not better than John Michael McDonagh. Martin McDonagh is responsible for the masterpiece which is ‘In Bruges’ and the pretty great ‘Seven Psychopaths’ and will also have another film due out next year – ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ – more on that nearer the time. To me, ‘War On Everyone’ looks like John Michael McDonagh’s response to his brother’s ‘Seven Psychopaths’ – an offbeat comedy that propels them to an American audience. Although I have great respect for ‘Seven Psychopaths’, it didn’t particularly do much to Martin McDonagh’s career so here’s hoping that ‘War on Everyone’ will be a success. Both of these brothers are geniuses so check out their work and go and see ‘War on Everyone’.


‘War on Everyone’ will be released in UK cinemas on Friday 7th October 

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