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Review: THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI (2017)

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Joseph Friar

By Joseph Friar
Dec. 6, 2017 at 9:04 p.m.



Review: THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI (2017)

Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Lucas Hedges, Clarke Peters, Abbie Cornish, Peter Dinklage, Caleb Landry Jones, Kerry Condon, John Hawkes, Kathryn Newton, Zeljko Ivanek, Brendan Sexton III, Samara Weaving, Nick Searcy.

Directed by Martin McDonagh 

Martin McDonagh takes no prisoners with “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” featuring an outstanding performance by Frances McDormand as Mildred Hayes, a mother hell-bent on finding the people responsible for murdering her daughter. The dark comedy moves along with such ferocity that audiences will feel a jolt here and there as the first-rate cast bring these vibrant characters to life. Wavering between a comical and melancholy tone, the film is sometimes a bitter pill to swallow but the payoff is worth the unpredictable ride. 

It’s been seven months since Mildred Hayes’ teenage daughter was raped, murdered, and burned beyond recognition near their home in Ebbing, Missouri. With no leads or evidence that points to the culprits, Police Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) has abandoned the investigation. Out of frustration, Mildred sells her ex-husband’s (John Hawkes) tractor-trailer to purchase three billboards at $5000 per month that read “Raped While Dying” “And Still No Arrests” “How Come, Chief Willoughby?” 

The signs infuriate dim-witted Deputy Dixon (Sam Rockwell) who orders the billboard company’s employee to take them down or face getting arrested. He also calls Willoughby to inform him that “we have kind of a problem.” Even though billboard company owner Red Welby (Caleb Landry Jones) won’t tell the chief who rented out the signs he knows it was Mildred, who is still grieving her daughter’s death. 

Harrelson delivers a noble performance as the level-headed police chief who is married to a beautiful wife (Abbie Cornish) while raising two young daughters. He sympathizes with Mildred and would like nothing better than to catch her daughter’s killers, but he also understands why she put up the billboards even though they seem unfair. Willoughby is a good cop and a decent human being unlike his loyal deputy Dixon, a hot-tempered racist prone to violence. 

The supporting cast features Manchester by the Sea’s Lucas Hedges (who can also be seen in Lady Bird) as Mildred’s son Robbie and Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) as a local car salesman who has the hots for Mildred. The film’s ensemble cast is fantastic with McDormand in her best performance since “Fargo” and Rockwell at his all-time best leading the way. 

British-Irish playwright Martin McDonagh features enough profanity in his screenplay to give “Goodfellas” a run for its money. That’s nothing new for the director who has become proficient at writing dark comedies like 2008’s “In Bruges” and 2012’s “Seven Psychopaths” which also features Harrelson, Rockwell, Cornish, and great character actor Zeljko Ivanek. 

McDonagh is on roll with this Oscar-worthy film that should score nominations for McDormand, Rockwell, as well as a Best Picture nod. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” comes close to perfection. 

(4 stars)

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