Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Having found no leads or making any headway in the brutal murder and rape of her daughter, Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand), rents out three disused billboards that throws a bee in the bonnet of the local police department, particularly to the ire of dimwit racist police officer James Dixon (Sam Rockwell) who sees it as the zenith of disrespect. Sheriff Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) is more sympathetic despite it being his name on the boards. It sparks debate and discord amongst some of the town but Mildred is resolute in trying to stir up the storm in trying to get change, even if it upsets her son and ex-husband. When a lead develops about a potential suspect, an unlikely alliance forms in trying to track down the potential perpetrator to seek vengeance outside the law.

You’ve come some way to be allowed by the Hollywood brass to release a film with an obscure title. But Martin McDonagh has been giving a trust to let his films and brand of comedy to speak for itself and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is another firecracker of blistering laughs. yet doses of bloody violence drum in the dramatics to give Three Billboards a steely sharp edge. A stellar cast of some of the finest acting talent but everyone is pretty much left in a wake behind McDormand. But for all the wit and brutal dialogue, the plot fails to reach the same levels. When an outside force is introduced, it feels rather haphazard, forced and to be savage, fairly amateurish. James Dixon’s character’s one hundred and eighty degree turn comes a bit too easily, almost as though there is little resonance of the original character left. Somewhat like previous film Seven Psychopaths, the story feels a bit meandering in the first half then kicks into gear eventually. Once again Martin McDonagh has delivered a knock out black comedy, but I still feel he is somewhat shy of making a truly great film.

★★★

Chris Aitken