Four stars for ‘ Three Bill­boards’

It’s a beau­ti­fully bru­tal movie. Re­view,

USA TODAY US Edition - - LIFE - Brian Truitt Colum­nist USA TO­DAY

They say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, but Mil­dred Hayes would put the fear of God in the devil him­self.

Wield­ing right­eous anger, fiery emo­tion, bit­ing hu­mor and an ornery man­ner right out of a Clint East­wood West­ern, Frances Mc­Dor­mand un­leashes 2017’s most in­deli­ble movie mom in the darkly comic crime drama Three Bill­boards Out­side Eb­bing, Mis

souri eeee out of four; rated R; in the­aters Fri­day in New York and Los An­ge­les, ex­pands to ad­di­tional cities through­out Novem­ber, goes na­tion­wide Dec. 1). Writer/di­rec­tor Martin McDon­agh ( In Bruges) crafts an ex­pertly struc­tured, bru­tal, yet sur­pris­ingly rous­ing nar­ra­tive around a woman who’s ready to torch her en­tire life if it means catching a killer.

Sev­eral months after her teenage daugh­ter is raped and burned to death by an un­known as­sailant, Mil­dred has had it with the small-town cops bungling the case and rents space on three rick­ety bill­boards at the mur­der site that haven’t been used in years. In black let­ters with a red back­ground and no subtlety what­so­ever, the griev­ing mother calls out the chief of po­lice, Bill Wil­loughby (Woody Har­rel­son), for his of­fi­cers’ hap­less­ness.

The thing is, most of Eb­bing isn’t on Mil­dred’s side, even know­ing her loss, be­cause she’s not ex­actly what you’d call a “peo­ple per­son.” Wil­loughby’s heart is in the right place and he’s a pop­u­lar guy, plus he’s got can­cer: Their re­la­tion­ship, though frayed, is one of the film’s most in­trigu­ing on an emo­tional level. More con­fronta­tional is Mil­dred’s dy­namic with Of­fi­cer Dixon (Sam Rock­well), a mama’s boy with a screw loose who’s best known for tor­tur­ing black pris­on­ers, and her volatile ex-hus­band (John Hawkes). There are even com­pli­cated feel­ings be­tween Mil­dred and those clos­est to her, in­clud­ing her son Rob­bie (Lu­cas Hedges) and loyal pal James (Peter Din­klage).

Mil­dred’s mad­der than hell and she’s not tak­ing it any­more, and Mc­Dor­mand in­fuses her with such pain and pres­ence that, even though she’s not that lik­able, her wounded mother is a won­der­fully pri­mal sight to be­hold. Ev­ery­one from her den­tist to the re­porters who cover the over-the-top bill­boards in­curs her wrath, and when a priest shows up at her house to urge her to turn the other cheek, Mil­dred launches a nu­clear re­buke com­par­ing the church to the Crips and Bloods.

Among a stand­out cast across the board, Mc­Dor­mand’s and Rock­well’s per­for­mances give Three Bill­boards most of its emo­tional weight — and two in­stant Os­car con­tenders, espe­cially Mc­Dor­mand, who should fol­low up her

Fargo win two decades later with this show­piece.

McDon­agh has cre­ated a pow­der keg of a town whose big­gest prob­lems are rooted in the is­sues of our times, in­clud­ing racism, gen­der pol­i­tics, sex­ual as­sault, po­lice vi­o­lence and sim­ply lov­ing thy neigh­bor. But it re­mains a satisfying nar­ra­tive through­out, blend­ing black hu­mor and men­ace, and fos­ter­ing a per­vad­ing sense of hope amid a re­lent­less story of re­venge.

Dixon (Sam Rock­well) and Mil­dred (Frances Mc­Dor­mand) go head to head in “Three Bill­boards Out­side Eb­bing, Missouri” after Mil­dred’s daugh­ter is raped and killed and she holds the small-town po­lice ac­count­able. MER­RICK MOR­TON

Chief Wil­loughby (Woody Har­rel­son) tries to talk sense into an en­raged Mil­dred (Mc­Dor­mand). FOX SEARCH­LIGHT

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