A woman in small-town Missouri is frustrated with the lack of leads in the rape and murder of her daughter, so rents three billboards calling out the town Sheriff - causing havoc in the process.
It's that time of year again when all of the Oscar contenders start rearing their heads and favourites become clear after smaller organisations start naming the best of the best for 2017. 'Three Billboards' has been one of those films that has picked up notices and is widely regarded as a frontrunner in a few categories come March 4th; it's also been heralded by many as Martin McDonagh's best work. It isn't. Not by a long shot.
That's not to say that Three Billboards isn't an accomplished, entertaining and inherently sharp piece of work. Looking at McDonagh's body of work on screen and in theatres, it seems the English born, Irish citizen is incapable of doing anything otherwise.
As you'd expect the acting is universally superb. Frances McDormand might be the most broadly under-appreciated actor of her generation and she's given an incredible role here to sink her teeth into. Mildred is layered; suffering, aggressive, loving,unrelenting, foul-mouthed... and the Oscar winner for Fargo doesn't disappoint with the most staggering work of her career. But she isn't your typical McDonagh protagonist, at least in terms of someone being seemingly despicable at first. That's Sam Rockwell's Dixon; a man who we hear has done a horrible thing, who then snaps and does another horrible thing. The script spins it past believable a little too much, but Rockwell does enough to make you buy the transition.
The major flaw is probably no fault of the film, really; it's that its most watchable character isn't on screen enough. While McDormand has the bragging rights and will (rightly) pick up an Oscar nod, along with an equally deserving Rockwell, the real standout is Woody Harrelson - so much so that whenever he's not screen you miss him. Harrelson just has something unique that maybe a handful of actors have (Stanley Tucci and Richard Jenkins share this attribute), in that he's instantly likable, intrinsically warm and almost always watchable. McDonaugh's strongest work here is through his Sheriff Willoughby.