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THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI is a darkly comic drama from Academy Award nominee Martin McDonagh (In Bruges). After months have passed without a culprit in her daughter’s murder case, Mildred Hayes (Academy Award winner Frances McDormand) makes a bold move, painting three signs leading into her town with a controversial message directed at William Willoughby (Academy Award nominee Woody Harrelson), the town’s revered chief of police. When his second-in-command Officer Dixon (Academy Award winner Sam Rockwell), an immature mother’s boy with a penchant for violence, gets involved, the battle between Mildred and Ebbing’s law enforcement is only exacerbated.

MovieGuy Review

This movie has three of my favorite things in it:

⁃ Woody Harrelson
⁃ Sam Rockwell
⁃ Frances McDormand

What a recipe for a great film. I'm not entirely sure why, but Woody Harrelson is one of my favorite character actors on the big screen. His on-screen personality and energy almost always pull me in to whatever story he helps to tell. He has always been a favorite and he did not disappoint in this telling.

Sam Rockwell has been a favorite actor of mine for over 20 years. His method almost always amazes me, and he comes close to carrying this story all by himself. The cooky, racist, complicated Jason Dixon challenged me to either love or hate him and I was never quite able to completely do either. His performance was certainly Oscar-worthy and reminded me of why I fell in love with his acting more than two decades ago.

Frances McDormand is one of the finest actors of her generation. What generation is that? I don't know. She's gotta be 15+ years older than me, so it's that generation. I don't care that she barely chooses any films other that those written by hubby Ethan Coen. When you're that good, you've earned the right to be picky in choosing your roles and Ethan obviously knows how to write characters that play to her strengths. Interestingly, even though this movie feels like it belongs to the Coen Brother, it doesn't. It was written and helmed by Martin McDonagh (In Bruges), but he probably just let Frances do her own thing. She is amazing as Mildred Hayes (the main character) and graciously shares the screen with these other favorites already mentioned. She deserves whatever accolades come her way as a result of this performance.

I would also like to mention two other veteran performances and one "newcomer" performance that stood out for me. Clarke Peters, from "The Wire", "Treme" and so many other film and TV performances is another favorite of mine. I was thrilled to see him show up in this movie. His characters rarely seem all that different, but he always nails them so powerfully that I really don't care. He dominates the screen when he enters the frame and I love his work.

Brendan Sexton III has come a long way since "Welcome to the Dollhouse" and "Empire Records". I instantly recognized him in this movie, despite the fact that it might have been 20 years since I saw him in anything. He played his usual stereotype, a surly, angst-ridden ne'er-do-well, but he does it so well that he was a welcome addition to this powerhouse of a cast.

I want to also throw a mention to a relative newcomer to Hollywood, Caleb Landry Jones. His performance as Red Welborn caught my attention early in the film and I kept wanting to see more from him. He did a great job and I look forward to seeing more from him in the future.

Would I recommend this movie? If you liked "In Bruges" or if you like the Coen Brothers (even though this is not a Coen Brothers film), this is one of the best so I would recommend you experience this superb story. While a bit dark and certainly not one for the kids, this film creates characters that I very quickly started caring about and kept me interested for the entire two hours. While there were definitely some slow points in the story, there were not enough of them to damage the pacing. The story moved along nicely and kept me engaged all the way to the end. I even liked the ending, which is not always a prerequisite to me liking a film. Well done, Martin, Frances, Woody, Sam and all the rest. Thank you for the experience.

I give this film 4 out of 5 stars.

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