Three Bill­boards Out­side Eb­bing, Mis­souri

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - CINEMA - HI­LARY A WHITE

Cert: 15A; Now show­ing

It just swept the Golden Globes, tak­ing home Best pic­ture (drama), screen­play, ac­tress (drama) for Frances Mcdor­mand and sup­port­ing ac­tor for Sam Rock­well.

Now we wait to see if Martin Mcdon­agh’s lat­est car­ries any kind of mo­men­tum into the rest of awards sea­son.

While the Lon­don-ir­ish film­maker’s best work of late (af­ter the frankly over­rated In Bruges and the fun but un­tidy Seven Psy­chopaths), Three Bill­boards... doesn’t have “Os­cars glory” writ­ten all over it. While punchy and full of giddy flour­ishes of di­a­logue, as ever with Mcdon­agh it paints it­self into a cor­ner in the clos­ing scenes where a con­ve­nient en­trance stage-right in the sec­ond act is ex­ploited. No­body re­acts in a nor­mal man­ner to any­thing.

Luck­ily, the core trio in the cast are a mus­cu­lar thing to be­hold. Mcdor­mand is tough as old boot leather as Mil­dred, a lo­cal woman seething in the af­ter­math of her teenage daugh­ter’s mur­der.

Look­ing to shake up the use­less Eb­bing po­lice force that failed to find the killer, she rents out three bill­boards on the ap­proach to town and has a provoca­tive mes­sage pasted across them. Her tar­get is Chief Wil­loughby (Woody Har­rel­son) but her ac­tions draw in the wrath of thug­gish, white-trash lo­cal of­fi­cer Dixon (Sam Rock­well).

A swirl of side char­ac­ters an­i­mates the nearly two hours of blackly comic, neo-western drama — Caleb Landry Jones as the wimpy ad agent, John Hawkes’s nasty ex-hus­band, a po­lice su­pe­rior played by The Wire’s Clarke Peter.

A su­perb cast, then, and for the most part Mcdon­agh keeps them mov­ing in in­ter­est­ing pat­terns. If he tight­ened up his end­ings a bit, he’d be un­stop­pable.

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