When the man who gave us ‘In Bruges’ and ‘Seven Psychopaths’ comes out with a movie and fills it with the likes of Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell, it’s hard to walk past - much like the three features of his latest project, ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’. Invoking any emotion from film is no easy task, but when you find a filmmaker who can make you laugh, cry and walk out rooting for - well, maybe not the bad guy, but a bad guy - it’s a rare and beautiful find.
Mildred (McDormand, 'Fargo', 'Moonrise Kingdom', 'Almost Famous') is a sassy single mother living in nothing-town Missouri, also known as Ebbing. Seven months after the rape and murder of her teenage daughter Angela, Mildred decides to rent three billboards to call out the police and motivate them to find Angela’s killer. With no leads, a distracted police chief (Harrelson, 'War For The Planet Of The Apes', 'Wilson', the 'Hunger Games' franchise) and idiot alcoholic, and racist cop Dixon (Rockwell, 'The Way Way Back', 'Moon', 'Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind') hellbent on making Mildred’s life a living hell instead, it becomes a town divided and a young girl’s murder still unsolved as the itch for justice and vengeance grows too big not to scratch.
Martin McDonagh’s films are always a breath of bittersweet fresh air. He’s kind of like a darker Shane Black ('The Nice Guys', 'Kiss Kiss Bang Bang') - mixing the good, the bad, the funny and the disturbingly ugly all in one fabulously acted package. It’s not every day you find yourself hysterically laughing at an abusive racist or a discussion about the rape and murder of a teenage girl - and yet McDonagh pulls it off, and then some. He also has a unique way of breaking down the walls between good and bad. So many of his characters cross both lines of the manic scale - pathologically bad people who do good things and good people who do really bad, illegal things.
...mixing the good, the bad, the funny and the disturbingly ugly all in one fabulously acted package.
While once again McDonagh finds himself in the third act slump - as we’ve seen him do in his past two ventures - we still see a very smart filmmaker pull himself out of said slump and take his gloriously flawed yet righteous characters into unexpected directions and to places no one will see coming.
‘Three Billboards’ is one of the most moving films of the year, and McDormand’s finest performance since her Oscar-winning turn in ‘Fargo’. As for Harrelson and Rockwell, well they could just about act out the phonebook and I’d cry foul when the Oscar snubs came. Also be on the lookout for the small but delicious rolls carried out by the incomparable Peter Dinklage and Australia’s own Samara Weaving. Not ones you’ll soon forget.