‘Three Bill­boards’ seen, 2 hours wasted

The Record (Troy, NY) - - FRONT PAGE -

In nearly 25 years of writ­ing this col­umn I have never done a movie review. Un­til to­day. The rea­son is be­cause I’m so an­noyed over a movie I was ex­cited to see and deeply dis­ap­pointed in, “Three Bill­boards Out­side Ebbing, Mis­souri.” Now when I say I was dis­ap­pointed I don’t mean I thought the movie would be great and it stunk. It didn’t stink; over­all it was riv­et­ing. My is­sue came with the heavy handed mes­sag­ing and dare I say an­tiChris­tian tilt that the writer/di­rec­tor felt the need to push.

Be­fore I get into that let me say two things up front. First I’m go­ing to give away ma­jor plot points so if you haven’t seen the film and plan to, stop read­ing. Sec­ond, I am not one who read­ily be­lieves in con­spir­acy the­o­ries so when I hear peo­ple on Fox News talk about “lib­eral Hol­ly­wood” and their hid­den agenda I gen­er­ally roll my eyes. I think by and large Hol­ly­wood’s only agenda is to make money, lots of it. That’s why we get so many bad se­quels. So un­der­stand it pains me to even go down this road at all.

I as­sumed I’d love the movie be­cause it had three of my favorite ac­tors, Woody Har­rel­son (Cheers, Hunger Games), Sam Rock­well (The Green Mile, Match­stick Men) and Frances McDor­mand (Fargo, Al­most Fa­mous) and in fair­ness they were all bril­liant. Rock­well I be­lieve is one of the most un­der­rated ac­tors do­ing stage or film to­day. If he opened a play off-Broad­way where all he did was read names from a phone book I’d pay to see it.

I went in know­ing the ba­sic plot which was a woman’s daugh­ter is killed, she isn’t happy with the lack of ac­tion by the po­lice, so she puts up three bill­boards hop­ing to em­bar­rass the po­lice chief into ac­tion. And that is ex­actly how it starts. Un­for­tu­nately it didn’t take long for the movie to start check­ing the usual boxes and tak­ing pre­dictable shots at peo­ple in po­si­tions of power and re­spect who are of­ten tar­gets for the left.

Example, Sam Rock­well’s char­ac­ter can’t just be a cop, he has to be a racist cop who’s drunk all the time and beats mi­nori­ties and throws gay peo­ple out of win­dows; lit­er­ally. Un­der­stand­ing that there are cer­tainly some bad cops in the world I ac­cepted the premise and moved on to the Woody Har­rel­son cop char­ac­ter hop­ing he’d be por­trayed in a more fa­vor­able light. He’s a good cop but he’s dy­ing of can­cer. Rather than show com­pas­sion for him the Frances McDor­mand char­ac­ter dou­bles down in try­ing to hu­mil­i­ate pub- li­cally him in the town. Nice.

Har­rel­son’s char­ac­ter also takes a dark turn. Rather than bravely bat­tle his dis­ease Har­rel­son’s so­lu­tion is to plan a per­fect day with his wife and kids and then go to the barn and blow his brains out. Keep in mind he wasn’t in end stage can­cer here, he ac­knowl­edged in his sui­cide note that he likely had many more days or weeks to en­joy his fam­ily but he thought the smart move was to end things early and spare them see­ing him die slowly. As if find­ing his body in the barn wouldn’t earn his kids a few years of ther­apy.

The movie is void of any men­tion of faith, which is fine, not ev­ery­body be­lieves in a higher power. So I was con­fused why the lo­cal priest, a seem­ingly kind gen­tle­man, un­ex­pect­edly paid a visit to Francis McDor­mand’s home to talk to her about her anger and the three bill­boards that were mak­ing the sher­iff’s fi­nal days even worse. Rather than tell him to mind his own busi­ness McDor­mand brings up the sex scan­dal of the Catholic Church and tells the priest he is just as guilty as any pe­dophile priest.

Along the way a den­tist tries to use a drill on McDor­mand’s mouth (with­out the use of Novo­cain) be­cause he’s up­set about the bill­boards and she takes it from his hand and drills it through his fin­ger; a gross scene I as­sure you. For some rea­son she’s not ar­rested for as­sault. Nor is she ar­rested when she burns down the en­tire po­lice sta­tion. She also goes on a date with the nicest man in the movie (Peter Din­klage from Game of Thrones) only to hu­mil­i­ate him as well.

As the movie moves to­ward the cli­max you hold out hope that McDor­mand or the cops will catch her daugh­ter’s killer but they don’t. In­stead she teams up with the racist cop and they de­cide to go kill a dif­fer­ent man they sus­pect of a sex crime but have zero proof of. The end, roll the cred­its, that’s the movie.

So let’s re­cap. Racist copcheck. Priests are pe­dophilesyep. If you get sick take your own life- got it. Oh and if you can’t get jus­tice for your daugh­ter’s mur­der just go and kill some­one else who may or may not be guilty; no need for a trial or ev­i­dence.

Three Bill­boards got a bunch of nom­i­na­tions and won some big awards. I’m not cer­tain Hol­ly­wood is re­ally push­ing an agenda but this film cer­tainly bashed all the usual sus­pects. If I took out a bill­board it would con­tain one word, dis­ap­point­ing.

John Gray is a news an­chor on WXXA-Fox TV 23 and ABC’S WTEN News Chan­nel 10. His col­umn is pub­lished ev­ery Wed­nes­day. Email him at johngray@fox23news.com.

John Gray

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