Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

Director: Martin McDonagh

Cast: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Abbie Cornish, John Hawkes, Peter Dinklage

Screenplay: Martin McDonagh

115 mins. Rated R for violence, language throughout, and some sexual references.

 

Writer/Director Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths) definitely has a flavor to his work. His is a violent, darkly comedic world, one this writer wouldn’t want to live in. But I’ll definitely watch others live in it.

McDonagh’s newest film, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, introduces us to Mildred (Frances McDormand, Fargo, Hail, Caesar!), a grieving mother who decides to question local law enforcement’s handling of her daughter’s murder case when she rents and erects three billboards in a quiet part of town, asking if the cops have done enough in their search for the killer. This brings her to a head with Sheriff Willoughby (Woody Harrelson, Lost in London, TV’s True Detective) and hotheaded officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell, Moon, Poltergeist). As the public takes sides in the matter, arguments and violence ramp up and Mildred and Dixon are forced to confront their anger and their past in order to move forward.

Martin McDonagh is a very accomplished character storyteller. His characters live by the principle that a character doesn’t have to be likable as long as she is interesting. Mildred isn’t very likable. Willoughby isn’t very likable. Dixon definitely isn’t likable. Dammit, though, they are interesting, as are the supporting players, particularly Peter Dinklage (Rememory, TV’s Game of Thrones) as a man who takes a liking to Mildred but can’t quite match her level of motivation.

McDonagh uses his characters and his hyper-violence to tell a deeply personal story, more so than either of his previous features. Mildred has deep personal pain and her motives are admirable, There’s a lot that makes sense in the confines of the story, with the exception of one thing.

If there is an issue with the film, it’s the ending. McDonagh chooses an ambiguous ending to his story, one that leaves character plot threads unresolved. In some cases, this can work, but after spending two hours with these people, the question he is asking is a no-brainer. The film ends with two possible paths, but one path would completely betray the character arc, so it doesn’t make sense to leave it open.

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri is another fascinating character piece from writer/director Martin MacDonagh. This film should be praised for its performances, particularly McDormand and Rockwell, but it is the brilliantly written screenplay that gives them so much to work with. This is a story for anyone who has ever done something crazy out of grief, and its deeply moving and yet somehow completely unhinged, and I highly recommend it.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

Have you seen Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri? What did you think? What’s your favorite performance from Frances McDormand? Let me know/drop a comment below!

 

 

For my review of Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges, click here.

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[Happy 5th Birthday!] Sucker Punch (2011)

 

Director: Zack Snyder

Cast: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, Carla Gugino, Oscar Isaac, Jon Hamm, Scott Glenn

Screenplay: Zack Snyder, Steve Shibuya

110 mins. Rated PG-13 for thematic material involving sexuality, violence and combat sequences, and for language.

 

Wow, I remember being very excited for Sucker Punch five years ago. I really enjoyed Dawn of the Dead and Watchmen, both directed by Zack Snyder (300, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) and I couldn’t wait to see what the visual director was going to bring next. Sucker Punch had the right amount of mystery and confidence to carry it for me. Then, it came out. My mind quickly changed. Looking back now, I decided to revisit Sucker Punch five years later to see if it had changed.

Sucker Punch is another one of those movies impossible to fully describe in a paragraph, so I’ll try to make it as easy as possible. Babydoll (Emily Browning, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Legend) has just lost her mother, and her step-father has sent her to an asylum for the mentally ill, which Babydoll sees as a brothel. She meets others there, like Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish,  Limitless, RoboCop) and her sister Rocket (Jena Malone, Contact, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2), and she is introduced to Blue Jones (Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis, Star Wars: The Force Awakens), who makes Babydoll and her friends dance at his club. Not wanting to deal with the cards dealt, Babydoll escapes into a fantasy world where she battles Nazi Zombies, Robot Samurai, and of course, a dragon, all the time attempting to get tools to plot her escape.

If there are two truly great things that came out of Sucker Punch, they are the visuals and the music. This movie is gorgeous looking, and I don’t just mean the talent in front of the camera. Zack Snyder’s constant flair for the screen  is again impressive here. The score and soundtrack, both in the original renditions and songs selected to fit the film, are incredible and rhythmic and a lot of fun. That is where the wins for Sucker Punch end.

I’m not even going to touch on the misogynistic feel of the overall film. The movie just wants to be better than it is. I didn’t feel the emotional impact of much of the film because I knew that what I was seeing was not exactly what was really happening. It isn’t very easy to make a popcorn movie with explosions and scantily-clad woman battling monsters into a total snoozer, but Sucker Punch did just that. Honestly, when I read down the list of components of this film, it should be great, but the poor screenplay from Snyder and Steve Shibuya shines through this film, ultimately making a disappointment.

The film is star studded, also including Jamie Chung (Big Hero 6, Bad Johnson), Carla Gugino (Night at the Museum, San Andreas), Jon Hamm (TV’s Mad Men, Minions), and Scott Glenn (The Silence of the Lambs, The Barber), but unfortunately, the film feels overdone and undercooked, a beautifully confusing mess, a nicely mixed cocktail that tastes like mud. I really wanted to love Sucker Punch, but I just wasn’t in love with it.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, click here.

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