Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Martin McDonagh's remarkably incoherent portrait of middle America has the smug condescension of Crash (with a splash of Coen brothers) but none of the didactic doublespeak about social problems, at least not unless you consider a painfully unfunny exchange about "person of color torturing" to be pushing an actual theme; that might sound like a positive change until you actually endure this movie's inane, bewildering shapelessness and some of the most abysmal dialogue ever heard in a widely praised motion picture (honestly, just spend some time on the film's IMDB "memorable quotes" page and tell me this is Good Writing, and that doesn't even include the conversation with a deer about Doritos, or the Oscar Wilde penis joke that McDonagh clearly thinks is a work of unparalleled genius), which is sub-MST3K stuff and sounds (as my wife pointed out) like the work of a kid who just found out it's okay to curse in front of his parents. Using a past assault and murder as a prop, using the people affected by it as props, all to justify an endless parade of aimlessly bad behavior, the film tracks a lot of fuss about the titular artifacts, three roadside adverts by the victim's mother (Frances McDormand) shaming the town sheriff (Woody Harrelson) for his failure to make any arrests. I understand the consternation about the racist content and "redemption arc" here but truly the movie is too muddled and clueless to inspire passionate anger; it's a glorified school play so incomprehensible in its plotting, characterization and tone that it doesn't even seem to know what it's trying to accomplish. "Inconsistent" would be one thing, as black comedy is a hard thing to get right, but this is a film whose attitude toward its own world changes so constantly you can't even keep track of it for a few minutes; it's lazy writing through and through, feeling like a first-draft by a dreadful writer, or by a bot-text predictor. One thing that is consistent is the lack of respect for any of the characters, none of whom have the first hint of depth or reality, spewing out horrendous monologues without revealing any sort of inner life. I understand that some of McDonagh's past work has been celebrated but I don't understand how anyone with any kind of competence or shame would allow this to be released under their own actual name. Admittedly some of Ben Davis' cinematography isn't bad, but even the reliable actors in the cast -- McDormand as a ball of directionless anger, Sam Rockwell as a broader cartoon than his own Zaphod Beeblebrox -- turn in mediocre-to-embarrassing work, and at some point you can't blame anyone but them for participating in this pap, though since it got them both Oscars it's not like you have much standing. And what's the great, deep-down message of this drivel? Are you ready?? Are you ready for the great truth it has to impart??? "What you need to become a detective........ is love." Wow. Thank you. So much, for that.

Nathan liked this review