Review by James Colt Harrison
Frances McDormand is beautifully cast as a mother who is determined to avenge her daughter’s untimely murder. McDormand is a force to be reckoned with both as an actress and as a furious mama hell-bent to get the sheriff in town (Woody Harrelson) to get off his butt and dig deeper into the case.
As Mildred Hayes, McDormand becomes the lioness who protects her cubs and will do anything to keep them safe. Unfortunately, her daughter (Kathryn Newton) met her early demise at the hands of a vicious killer. The problem of solving the case falls into the hands of Sheriff Bill Willoughby (Harrelson) and his inept sidekick Officer Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell). The case runs up against the usual roadblocks, and the Sheriff is stymied.
Actor Rockwell is probably the best scene-stealer in the film, although he is running stiff competition from McDormand’s knock-out performance of the no-nonsense Mildred Hayes. Rockwell plays a dim bulb hothead whose light has been switched off years ago. He’s funny, he’s violent, and he’s terrific. You wouldn’t want him on your case, that’s for sure. It’s a snappy performance that could nab him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar- nomination.
Unsatisfied with the snail’s pace of the case being solved, Mildred wants to wake up the police department and the local populace to what she feels is total ineptitude of the sheriff’s investigation. She decides to rent three billboards on the road into town (allegedly the small town of Ebbing, Missouri--although the film was shot in Asheville, North Carolina!) and obliquely accuse the sheriff and his department of neglect and incompetence. As a side note, Caleb Landry Jones plays Red, the salesman who rents the billboards. His performance is a comic masterpiece for someone so young.
Mildred’s bold act causes an uproar in town with people who support the Sheriff; such as his co-workers, especially Zeljko Ivanek, and Willoughby’s very supportive wife Anne (Abby Cornish).
Although the movie is described as a crime drama, screenwriter/ director Martin McDonagh has inserted enough funny scenes and dialogue to qualify it as a comedy as well.
Watching McDormand take over the screen and every scene she is in is like achieving the ecstasy from eating a chocolate cake. Wow, is she unbelievably terrific all through the movie! All other actresses in Hollywood had better watch out because McDormand is sure to steal away at least one Academy Award- nomination as Best Actress.
One of the most enjoyable films of the year, it is sure to be on many Best lists from other critics. Audiences will be enthralled with the excellent performances all around. The story is clever and new and the screenplay is the best one written since Hell and High Water last year. Don’t miss it, and savor McDormand’s and Rockwell’s stand-out performances along with Lucas Hedges as Mildred’s son Robbie.
Fans of crime mysteries and comedy.