WARNING: The following is a SPOILER-FILLED review and critique of the critically lauded and Golden Globe-winning film.  

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri‘ is a mess of a film where motives, tone, and storyline is all over the place.  I cannot remember having been jerked around and emotionally manipulated as much as I felt upon leaving the movie theater.  Thank heavens the film is populated with an all-star cast on their A-game. 

But even a world-class chef can’t make prime rib out of dog sh*t.

Ultimately, ‘Three Billboards’ is worse than the sum of its parts, and the blame falls on writer-director Martin McDonough and film editor Jon Gregory.

‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ is being marketed as a “darkly comic drama” from Academy Award winner Martin McDonagh (In Bruges). Months have passed without a culprit in her daughter’s murder case. Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) makes a bold move, painting three signs leading into her town with a controversial message directed at William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), the town’s revered chief of police. When his second-in-command Officer Dixon (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.

The Whole is Lesser Than the Sum of its Parts

Despite my strong contempt for this film, the majority of the cast pour their heart and soul into the material that they are given.  McDormand, one of the greatest actresses of all-time, buries herself in the role of Mildred Hayes. McDormand gets a few brief moments to showcase her versatility.  She is an actress who will go any lengths to immerse herself in character.  She shows no vanity in an industry that is soaking in self-congratulatory vanity.

Harrelson and Rockwell both shine in drawing out nuance and complexity in their roles.  I think the ease that they are able to take McDonagh’s etch-a-sketch characterization and flesh them outcomes from (a) having previously worked with the writer-director, and (b) McDonagh’s affection for their characters.  Willoughby and Dixon are proof that McDonagh not only fancies their characters more than Mildred Hayes, but that McDonagh is better at writing male characters than getting into the internal psyche of women.

The rest of the cast does an admirable job with the breadcrumbs they’ve been given for roles (what a waste of an opportunity to underuse Lucas Hedges, John Hawkes, and Peter Dinklage) but ‘Three Billboards’ is essentially a three-person play.


Why is ‘Three Billboards’ a “Bad” Movie?

Forget hype.  Forget accusations that ‘Three Billboards’ is overrated or that criticism is backlash from its frontrunner status for awards.  Here is why I believe ‘Three Billboards’ is not a good movie.  

1. It doesn’t work as a dark comedy/drama.

What makes ‘Three Billboards’ such an epic misfire?  Well for starters, it is either a grossly unfunny dark comedy, or a drama that undercuts its subject matter with misplaced attempts at humor.  The tone and execution of this film is its biggest offense.  The majority of humor is not only unfunny, it is cringingly unfunny.  Part of the offense goes to the writing and part of the blame goes to editing.  Jon Gregory is listed as the film’s editor.  I don’t think he’s mastered the importance of timing, pauses, and space necessary to have humor effectively land in dramatic films.  It can be done.  The Coen Brothers and Tarantino have consistently infused humor and levity to counter moments of terror, threat, and violence.  McDonagh and Gregory’s use of humor and levity undercuts the serious stakes at play in ‘Three Billboards.’

Film critic Robbie Collins, in his overgenerous five-star review, wrote, “It is a film that continually forces you to interrogate your own reactions to it – both in terms of what you’re laughing at and why.” Unlike Collins, I was forced to interrogate my own reactions to what I wasn’t laughing at and why.

One scene, in particular, encapsulates my problems with the film.  

Charlie, Mildred’s ex-husband, pays her and their son Robbie a visit.  Charlies is played by the criminally underused John Hawkes. It has been implied that Charlie beat Mildred while they were married, and his entrance stokes the tension and threat of violence.  Things quickly escalate between the two and Charlie suddenly throws the kitchen table, strangles Mildred by the neck, and only yields when their son Robbie (Hedges) holds a kitchen knife against his dad’s throat. 

“I’m not sure if there is a creative message buried beneath the surface, but if there is, I missed the point.”

The confrontation is diffused by Charlie’s 19-year-old girlfriend entering the home and awkwardly babbling about needing to use the bathroom.  Her dialogue and character are intended for comic relief, but her character belongs in a different movie.  Immediately, Mildred, Charlie, and Robbie pick up the knocked over furniture and resume their conversation like nothing happened. The tension is this scene was palpable.  

The comic relief was forced, and the entire scene felt disingenuous and was sabotaged.

The violence in the film is horrific and undercuts any claims that the film is a dark or black comedy.  When I’ve watch Tarantino or Coen Brother dark comedies, the out-of-place violence provoke bemusement and amusement.  Deaths or acts of violence often follow with, “did that just really happen?” or a sense of shock and guilt for laughing at the scene.

There is one particular scene where I think McDonagh and Gregory successfully switch tones.  Mildred Hayes is at the police station being interviewed (interrogated?) by Chief Willoughby.  The banter between the two is biting and playful, elusive and ambiguous.  The tension between the two continues to build when suddenly Willoughby coughs blood that splatters on Mildred’s face.  They both freeze in shock and disbelief.

Willoughby is apologetic and scared.  Mildred is concerned and compassionate.  The tone suddenly shifts from humor and anger to worry and care.  It is the best scene in the entire film.  Perhaps McDonagh is better at framing a scene that switches from humor to pathos than going from tension to comedy.

2. The profanity felt forced and was distracting.

McDonagh’s writing style just doesn’t click with me.  There is something about how he employs profanity that I find grating and disingenuous.  I’m not against the use of profanity if it fits the characters and the world they inhabit.  I think that is why despite my repulsion of the N-word, the characters in Tarantino films speak in a manner that is consistent with the world he has created.

McDonagh’s use of profanity, in contrast, is cheap, mostly for shock value, and either betrays the characters or tells us nothing about them.  And if Tarantino is in love with the n-word, then McDonagh gets off on overusing the two c-words, “c*nt and c*ck!”

3. The film cannot decide who is the central character.

I was excited to see a film give Francis McDormand a huge canvas to showcase her acting abilities.  And McDormand pours her heart and soul into her depiction of Mildred Hayes.  The problem is that she is not given much to do and is a part of an ensemble. 

‘Three Billboards’ really isn’t her story.

Mildred Hayes still an enigma to the audience by the end of the film, because the film and its filmmaker show little interest in digging deeper into the pain, guilt, and damage of her character.  She merely functions as the first domino that orchestrates the chain reaction of events in the town and townspeople.

And because Mildred is not given any arc for growth or insight, the only change that has occurred in her is fatigue. She’s weary. 

Contrast the limited character advancement that Mildred undergoes with the arc and focus that McDonagh pays to Woody Harrelson’s Chief Willoughby or Sam Rockwell’s Officer Dixon.  Willoughby dominates the second act and Dixon dominates the third act.  And each exploration is at the expense of exploring Mildred Hayes.  

I found the storylines of both men to be compelling.  I think Harrelson provides the heart of the film, and Rockwell represents the hope of the film.  But, I found both explorations to be all-too-brief, all-too-convenient, and therefore the resolutions felt quick, inauthentic, and unearned.  

The film is sold as a mother’s vigilante pursuit of justice. It is headlined by Francis McDormand. Yet the film and its filmmaker seem more interested in the white, male characters. It is a tone-deaf mistake.  It is either (1) an egregious error of marketing, or (2) a manipulative move in order to convey that the film is #woke despite its fixation of the white men.  The women in ‘Three Billboards’ are not given as much time, depth, complexity, or conflict as their male counterpoints.


4. The racial politics of the film are disturbing by the utter lack of attention.

One of the biggest criticisms leveled at ‘Three Billboards’ is the so-called “redemption” of Officer Dixon.  For the first two-thirds of the film, Dixon is depicted as one of if not the primary antagonist in the story.  He has a reputation for being racist and abusive toward others.  In one of the film’s most horrific scenes, Dixon is shown brutally attacking Red Welby (Caleb Landry Jone), the salesman who rents the billboards out to Mildred Hayes.  It is a gruesome scene shot in one long, uninterrupted shot.  

It is also the only scene where we truly get a glimpse of what Dixon is capable of and how he’s probably earned his reputation in the town. Dixon returns to the police station after being fired to collect his things and reads a letter Willoughby wrote him urging Dixon to resist anger and favor love.  And then Mildred firebombs the police station and Dixon suffers severe burns to his face and body.

He finds himself in the same hospital room as Red Welby, the salesman he assaulted and severely injured.  Dixon apologizes, Welby indicates a degree of forgiveness, and soon Dixon shifts to the key protagonist in the third act of the film.  

Now, I’m not sure how much Dixon finds redemption in the film, but the pivot the film makes to focus on his journey in the third act is just one more example of how tone-deaf McDonagh is.  Did he not realize how problematic people would find Dixon’s storyline, especially after the first two-thirds of the film is building up how despicable of a person he is?  

And then to have the film demonstrate so much care, sensitivity, and empathy for him without addressing the racist reputation he carries is dismissive and insensitive to the audience.  

5. ‘Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri’s’ moral compass is “Injustice for All.”

What’s the point of the film?  What’s the central message or endgame for McDonagh?  For me, the film’s arc is to showcase “Injustice for All.”  Everybody in the film suffers.  Those who commit crimes get away with it.  Those who are decent still suffer due to injustice, and life goes on.

The women in ‘Three Billboards’ are not given as much time, depth, complexity, or conflict as their male counterpoints.

Mildred Haye’s daughter was brutally raped, murdered, and burned.  Her killer or killers are still at-large.  Charlie was a notorious wife-beater.  He even assaults Mildred in the film, long after their divorce.  Nothing happens to him.  He gets away with it.  Mildred’s friend and coworker played by Amanda Warren is arrested, and nothing happens. Officer Dixon has allegedly beaten people of color and the audience witnesses him relentlessly attack Red Welby.  He gets away with it.  

Yes, he loses his job as a police officer, but he doesn’t get arrested or put in jail, or face any legal consequences for his actions.  Charlie, Mildred’s ex-husband burns down the billboards.  Nothing happens to him.  Mildred herself assaults two teenagers at the local high school.  She gets away with it.  Then Mildred firebombs the police station and badly injures Office Dixon.  Nothing happens to her.  She gets away with it.

So a movie that burns with anger about injustice spends two hours showcasing all the characters getting away with every crime they commit.  I’m not sure if there is a creative message buried beneath the surface, but if there is, I missed the point.

Tell me I’m Wrong – Share Why You Like or Love ‘Three Billboards’

There really isn’t anything comedic or profound about ‘Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri.’   I’d love to hear those who have seen it why they believe it is a “good film.” I’d acknowledge that it has some good performances, and perhaps it thinks it’s saying something meaningful … but again, I do not think it is a “good film.”  Critique my critique and convince me why I am wrong.  Because I for the life of me do not understand this film.


    • Spot on. I am so bemused by how this film has got so much critical adulation. Has the the film world’s critical faculties really fallen that far since the 70s?

    • I actually googled who thinks Three Billboards outside of Ebbing MO sucks and got your review! I agree with everything you said. I am an educator. I thought the characters acted like immature 3rd graders who are dysfunctional and stupid. We teach our kids coflict resolution skills, anti bullying and accountability. That movie threw all of those concepts out the window in one horrible example 2 hour movie.! I really don’t understand why it won any awards. They all looked like they were rode hard and put away wet. It is vulgar and and depressing. and in real life the characters would be arrested for assault and battery and destruction of public property. It sucked!

      • I agree. This kind of movie is also the reason why people who live in NY and California and DC think that in between the coasts we are all hateful violent racists whose lives just completely suck. I hated this movie.

    • The film lost me after about the first 45 minutes. My wife and I kept looking at each other wondering when the hell is this movie going to be over? Plot holes all over this film. I have never been sold so much and realistic dialogue in my entire life. This movie was written for a very simple audience and I can guarantee you that is why it got an Oscar.

    • Her daughter is beaten up, raped, murdered and SET ON FIRE – an over the top crime that would probably make national news – and it is only ‘investigated’ by the local constabulary?? Really?

    • This is the worst movie. I agree with you. It reminds me of the stupid show, also set in Missouri, called Ozark with Jason Bateman. Coincidentially, I was travelling in Missouri and found a promotional card for film makers to make movies in Missouri that featured the state. The entire representation of people from Missouri is inaccurate. This is just the stupidest waste of time. I want my money back. I just absolutely hate this movie so much.

    • For the record. I’ll never watch the Oscars again or another moronic Hollywood movie. That’s how bad it was. I want the 2 hours they stole from my life back!!

    • Thank you! I just watched it and couldn’t believe how bad it is. You captured its terribleness in all its gory. Thanks again.

    • This movie was awful. Desperate to shove every social justice issue in your face like we lack any kind of intelligence. It felt more like satire to me…I couldn’t even finish watching the movie.

  1. You nailed it. What a mess of a movie. I came out rattled and thought about it most of the evening and then decided I had been ripped off. Nobody wins. Ypur review forgot to mention the thoughtless and useless swipe at the Catholic church, gays, and even dwarfs, let alone corrupt and stupid policemen.. Honestly he tried to do it all and failed miserably. If this wins any Oscars I’ll be very disappointed. . Much preferred Fargo as a showcase for McDormand. She’s a force and underused.

    • Thank you for the only review which accurately describes this film. My husband and I thought it was appalling, there was no enjoyment in watching violent unfunny acts go entirely unpunished and we were mystified as to why the murder of the daughter was even referred to as the motive for the film. Why such excellent actors were willing to participate in such a shallow script is beyond us.

  2. I don’t agree with your review but I can totally understand why some people find this film problematic especially the Dixon character. I mean he basically was burned and disfigured and people still think he was not ‘punished’? So do you want all racist people die? Even if they may change some day? Even if they believe in the things they believe due to complex reasons? I absolutely hate the squad mentality in today’s political climate, you are either SJW or alt-right, nothing in between, I absolutely hate words like mansplaining, white males thrown around like some new dirty words. But hey, I totally understand where people are coming from, because as human beings, we choose sides, and when we see something that mixes our side-choosing, it will be labeled as problematic. I’m pretty sure somewhere someone probably thinks the director himself is a misogynistic white male who could possibly be racist just because his film did not CRUCIFY the white racist cop. Yeah, way to go 2018.

    • despite everything you have just said, this film is still garbage because it is a messy, unthoughtful, badly made piece of film making

  3. The point of the movie is that anger dont lead to nothing. And this is the arc of Mildred. By the end of the movie she is more forgivin.

    • yes but the point of this criticism is to say that it was so cack-handedly amused by itself that whatever themes it set out to deliver are mangled in what is an absolute car crash of a film. the only things to be salvaged from the wreckage are the performances vainly struggling against horrible dialogue, horrible plotting and then ultimately undone by horrible post-production; the hallmark-style incidental score is diabolical at every turn and the only scenes that were bearable were the ones that omitted it

    • Stupid, it isnt about punishment of character, it’s about the development. Quick turn of motivation without showing enough why and why and even the character awareness of the consequences of his previous act. It’s less elegant waybof storytellin

    • More forgiving? She’s literally on the road to go murder someone based on the hunch of an idiot. I guess they’re going to “think about it on the way”, but that’s the big problem with this movie is that nobody changes. Willoughby kills himself, so I suppose that’s a change. But Mildred is the exact same person. Dixon, despite the letter convincing him to slow down and think, is still Dixon – I mean, his heroic moment is using his brain to assault someone in a bar by scratching his face so deep that it’s bleeding. And it turns out he didn’t actually do anything, so it’s just another crime in this movie that goes unpunished. All you can actually prove the guy did was to say some stupid s*** to his friend at a bar. Did he actually do anything? Maybe. Maybe not. That’s what the criminal justice system is for. But no, at the end Mildred and Dixon have loaded up a shotgun and snacks and are going to seek justice. What a joke.

      Nothing happens. Nobody changes. Maybe that’s real life, but that’s not really what you go to the movies to see. That’s why you read newspapers. But there’s apparently a crowd for this kind of cinema with its stupefyingly flat characters, wildly overwritten dialogue, and completely inane plot, which is why it inexplicably won major awards. This movie is absolute garbage.

  4. I think you are wayyy overthinking this movie. Being so hypercritical of the point of the film, the characters authenticity, and the political issues takes you completely past what makes it such a great movie. Perhaps it is necessary to grow up or live in the midwest to understand this town and its people. It is kind of like Tchaikovsky and Led Zeppelin. If you lean more towards the former, you probably think Zeppelin is garbage. You could list a dozen reasons why you think that and why their music offends you. Yet Zeppelin is the greatest rock band in history.
    This movie is great. Don’t over think it.

      • You are wrong. This movie wasn’t funny, wasn’t witty, wasn’t uplifting, wasn’t helpful, wasn’t interesting, it was however a waste of two hours. If you like this movie you would probably like watching flies on road kill

        • So funny and true. Destroyed my faith a little bit. I felt this way when I saw The Kok of Mormon, and it was like you weren’t meant to say it sucked because everyone would think ‘you have no imagi ation’ Or ‘you took it too seriously’. Well no, it just sucked.

  5. Spot on. The movie is confused. I felt cheated by its marketing campaign – I thought it would deal more with the emotional processing of the mother’s great loss (her daughter had only been dead 8 months). Instead it spewed gratuitous violence and horrifically timed comedy. I thought the casting for Harrelson’s wife’s character was very off. I would even argue that the film suffers from having too many underdeveloped characters that it could’ve done without. I found the generic tear jerky score annoying – the film was doing EVERYTHING it could to prove that it wasn’t tear jerky, in the process sacrificing whatever emotional truth it could have had for the sake of jokes. That said, it is beautifully shot, but gosh what a missed opportunity.

  6. I’m one of those people who has stopped watching entertainment because, other than a few TV shows, it is all atrocious.Nevertheless, I receive movies from SAG around Oscar time, and Sam Rockwell’s a good guy, so I decided to watch Billboard whatever it’s called with my girlfriend, not knowing anything other than that Sam was praised for his work. For so many reasons, I believe it was the single worst movie I have ever seen. THE worst. It tires me to even list them, because anyone who thinks this is not the laziest-written disgrace ever compiled…. it’s hard to even fathom. I’ve been looking for articles like this so I know I am alive and actually on the planet I was on before I turned on that piece of shit. Seeing the public response to it has made me physically ill to the point I don’t believe I will ever recover.

      • Yes I’ve started watching European/Scandinavian movies a lot lately. Quite used to sub titles now. Generally much better acting, story and grittiness. Hollywood can shove it. We not all morons!!

    • You’re not alone friend. I think we might actually live on another planet, however, given the universal praise heaped on this film. Or maybe we still live on Earth and all of these people are aliens. Whatever it is, something has happened. There’s no explanation for how an abomination like this movie has won major awards.

  7. I couldn’t agree more. I went to this movie on a date, our 4th date, and tried pleasantly to have “overall enjoyed the film’ – she bought the tickets. I had suggested we see it based on the trailer and the reviews, it struck me (like everyone else apparently) as something akin to a Coen brothers film. There were so many cliches, terrible casting, and convoluted plot turns which someone aptly described as a 7th grader’s idea irony. Covering even the most bothersome choices would take too long, and some of the worst have already been addressed, but Penelope’s character (why?), the choking scene followed by hand-holding (what?), Willoughby’s constant cursing (let alone his wife’s casting), the Red beating all but ignored, and THEN occupying the same ER room as Dixon (WHAT?), and finally one of the more subtle (for the blind) choices was to employ the cheapest trick of all: in walks the possible rapist to Hazel’s shop, and then again bragging about a rape with gasoline in the bar booth behind Dixon, and after the fight, DNA grab, etc., he turns out not to be the one. Is this not the biggest coincidence of all time? And why trick the audience like this?

    Terrible movie. Terrible writing. The critical response, let alone the “general response, is very alarming.

    • My husband described it as an “8th grader’s idea of irony” when we tried to watch it earlier today, so I think you are on to something. After the scene where Mildred gets arrested and taken to the police station, and Sam Rockwell’s character kept saying the N-word and that “We don’t say the N-word anymore” (wow, so funny) I turned the movie off, although I was really close to turning it off when Woody Harrelson says, “I have cancer.” Three Billboards literally threw everything at the wall to see what would stick and turns out, nothing did. How were viewers able to sit through the entirety of it??

  8. Yes, watched this film tonight with a friend and it was beyond bad. The writing, direction, convenient coincidences, slapstick misplaced humour, dead gags that fall awkwardly flat, cliched cartoon characters – awful and deadly dull too. One of the worst films I have seen in a long time!

  9. Awful story,during a yeat of political, socioeconomic and racial divisiveness this country needs and deserves an uplifting film. Not one that wallows in sadism and unfair endings!

  10. Can I just please say that you nailed EVERY SINGLE THING that I found wrong with the movie. Thank you. I find myself defending my point of view with everyone else who has bought the hype. Good job!

  11. Couldn’t agree more. About the worst film I’ve seen, and the first third dragged terribly. I was totally confused as to the purpose or message of the movie and had absolutely no sympathy for Mildred by the end. Pity because there was some excellent acting.

  12. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I went to this movie with friends who LOVED it. What a misogynistic, homophobic racist piece of crap. So glad to read your review

  13. Thank you very much for telling the truth! It’s a terrible, awful, horrible, absurd, useless waste of time, and I’m pissed that I can never have back those two hours of my life. How could anyone with a right mind think there was anything redeemable about this piece of garbage. The fact that it’s up for any awards is disturbing. Really? We can’t do better than this? The state of movie-making in this nation is abysmal, and Three Billboards is emblematic of that problem!

  14. Interesting review indeed, you raise some good points that I need to further think about.
    Nevertheless, even after having read the article (with which I disagree in almost any aspect) twice I do not understand how you come to the conclusion that this is a ‘bad film’. All you basically say is that you hated it (which does not equal ‘it is bad film’, right?), and you substantiate your claim by stating that you did not like its characters or did not find it funny. (In science, that kind of evidence might be considered as rather personal/anecdotal instead of empirical. I know, of course, this is not about science and empirical evidence is hard to give but sometimes it might be necessary to explicitly take personal taste out of the equation). It feels like you wanted to dislike it from the beginning, and (I guess) you do not like any of Martin McDonagh’s works. I saw the movie three times (original version twice, German version once), and I love it. Translation actually helped to grasp the subtlety of the script. Good for me, I’m a fan of McDonagh’s very own kind of humor which I would not compare to the Coens or Tarantino (who I also admire). Sure, they are all in the ‘dark humor’ business but this is about it. So much for personal/anecdotal notes. When analyzing it more systematically, “Three Billboards” can be viewed as a parable on guilt in three acts (almost like a sequential portmanteau film … this is what you refer to as “three-person-play”, probably). Each act represents different stages of guilt (which are also mirrored in the three billboards, in some way), and the corresponding feelings were palpable and credible (to me, at least). As a former trauma researcher, I would claim that the three main characters and performances are absolutely spot-on and (luckily) not as over the top as traumatic grief has been portrayed many times before. Quite a few critics say that the film does not care enough about Mildred and doesn’t give her enough space. Why? How should Mildred own the story even more? The characters in general (even the tiny ones) are multi-dimensional, the good guy vs. bad guy dichotomy is dissolved. Some examples: Mildred cares about racism as soon as it gets in the way of investigating the murder of her daughter. Town saint Willoughby mentors/protects his racist employee and marginalizes his acts. And whether Nixon is a full-blown racist or somebody with a drinking and a general violence problem is nicely blurred. Just as it may be with ‘real people’ who come with tons of personality traits, characteristics, and experiences.

    I played through different interpretations and, as outlined above, there is one that is particularly sound to me: this film is about the dyad guilt/justice (i.e., guilt as the feeling that indicates injustice to most humans). Racism and revenge are just used as up to date correlates to convey the actual topic.
    Overall, I think it is a very relevant narrative that can tell us a lot about mankind. Of course, if you resent the kind of language and portrayal it uses, it is difficult to immerge. However, if you can live with it (or even enjoy it, as I do :)), you’ll be seeing a film that tackles a difficult topic with seriousness, intensity, passion, love, and which is quite rare, with humor and without exuberant partisanship.
    Maybe, this abstract gives you some new thoughts, as yours did the other way round.

    • You say in regard to the review, “All you basically say is that you hated it.” Huh? To the contrary, Mr. Hetterly did an outstanding job of breaking down precisely what didn’t work and why. His review is well considered and cogent.

      For me, I found the movie to be trite, manipulative, and utterly ludicrous, Every movie seeks to bring the viewer around to its point of view, but I prefer a subtler approach, as opposed to being wrangled like cattle. I’m willing to be led but don’t push my head down and try to force me to drink.

      I admit I don’t really know the filmmaker’s work, but when I realized he’s a Brit I understood why the movie’s attempt at weighing in on racism was so poorly executed. He doesn’t get that racism in America isn’t like it was in the 50s and 60s, even in Small Town, Missouri. These days virtually everyone knows they have to play the game and racism has been relegated to subtext. Instead of acknowledging the reality and peril of veiled institutional racism, he wants us to believe we can spot the racists as easily as if they were wearing hoods and burning crosses.

      Bringing in the Morgan Freeman doppelganger as police chief was a pander to everyone’s desire to get even with the racist white cops. And, of course, the new black man on campus wouldn’t be complete if he didn’t call his lazy police officers crackerheads! That was when we were supposed to stand and cheer the righteous black man getting his comeuppance over racist white men. If only it were so easy…

        • Spot on! Thank you for articulating exactly what I felt after seeing the film. Ripped off emotionally! The 19 year old beautiful girlfriend who didn’t know the difference between Polo and Polio … haha?! Like she’d be with a 60 year old wife beater? She looked like a model & making her dumb was cliche and didn’t explain why she was cast. I imagine the director like her. Cheap shots galore! The suicide notes and the Oscar Wild reference, uggg, cringed because it came out of no where, Ebbing folks have obscure pithy thoughts! The Horses were even used in a manipulative manner! Too many cliches and creepy coincidences through out. The Idaho guy? Mildred hopes that her daughter gets raped & the daughter does too? Treated like a hollow, contrived flash back. The whole movie was delivered with the subtlety of a sledgehammered trying to teach us morality. And the race card was condensing and cliched and over played!

  15. You say in regard to the review, “All you basically say is that you hated it.” Huh? To the contrary, Mr. Hetterly did an outstanding job of breaking down precisely what didn’t work and why. His review is well considered and cogent.

    For me, I found the movie to be trite, manipulative, and utterly ludicrous, Every movie seeks to bring the viewer around to its point of view, but I prefer a subtler approach, as opposed to being wrangled like cattle. I’m willing to be led but don’t push my head down and try to force me to drink.

    I admit I don’t really know the filmmaker’s work, but when I realized he’s a Brit I understood why the movie’s attempt at weighing in on racism was so poorly executed. He doesn’t get that racism in America isn’t like it was in the 50s and 60s, even in Small Town, Missouri. These days virtually everyone knows they have to play the game and racism has been relegated to subtext. Instead of acknowledging the reality and peril of veiled institutional racism, he wants us to believe we can spot the racists as easily as if they were wearing hoods and burning crosses.

    Bringing in the Morgan Freeman doppelganger as police chief was a pander to everyone’s desire to get even with the racist white cops. And, of course, the new black man on campus wouldn’t be complete if he didn’t call his lazy police officers crackerheads! That was when we were supposed to stand and cheer the righteous black man getting his comeuppance over racist white men. If only it were so easy…

  16. @Bill Randle: I beg to differ. As I tried to outline above, I find Mr. Hetterly‘s thoughts interesting and a good basis for further deliberation. What I do not see is an „outstanding job of breaking down precisely what didn‘t work and why“. Beside the fact that ‚outstanding job“ is the kind of superlative that always makes me skeptical, your post doesn‘t really address why exactly you consider it „cogent“. Rather, you bring up new points. So, what is the outstanding quality of this review? The most striking commonality of the review, some of the posts above, and yours seems to be the perception of the film as „bad“. The author closed with a call for people who don‘t share his views on the film, instead the comment section is an outlet for those who agree with him on hating it. No-one challenges his basic assumptions and approach. You call „breaking it down precisely“, for me it‘s five ways to say „I just didn‘t like it“. More concretely:

    @1. „ … for starters, it is either a grossly unfunny dark comedy, or a drama that undercuts its subject matter with misplaced attempts at humor.  The tone and execution of this film is its biggest offense.“
    Completely subjective. Some would agree, many wouldn‘t.

    @2. „McDonagh’s writing style just doesn’t click with me.“
    Subjective. I got it. It‘s not your cup of tea.

    @3.  „The problem is that she is not given much to do and is a part of an ensemble.“
    True in one reference frame. When taking another vantage point, her character and others are dosed just right.

    @4. „ … is dismissive and insensitive to the audience.“
    Well, part of the audience. Not the part I know.

    @5. „What’s the point of the film?  What’s the central message or endgame for McDonagh?  For me, the film’s arc is to showcase “Injustice for All.”“
    This is a crucial question but rather in the sense of a premise for the critic than in the sense of a critique in its own right. As I basically wrote above: sometimes, it is helpful to desist from a hypothesis and test new ones. And this film deserves to not only be tested against the premises „injustice for all“ or „weighing in on racism“. Before calling it „poorly executed“ one might wonder whether the film had other intentions. (By the way, there is still relevant overt racism in the U.S. which films address with good cause. Based on my premise, I’d say Three Billboards is not one of them.)

    • Bastian — I’ve thought about the film a lot and I can’t decide whether I like the story. I didn’t like the film because thought it was terribly made — but that’s not worth getting into (I don’t have all day)… anyway, it’s much more interesting to analyze the story — You say the film is a “parable on guilt in three acts”. It’s interesting you say that because I didn’t really recognize any guilt at all. Like, there seemed to be an alarming lack of guilt. In fact, maybe that’s why I couldn’t relate.. McDormand’s character is fueled by pain, so she gets some sympathy, but she is unapologetically vicious. The source of Rockwell’s anger isn’t really explored, but he’s even more vicious — though I guess he does show a glimpse of remorse when confronted in the hospital by the guy he just nearly killed.. The police chief’s suicide has nothing to do with guilt (he explicitly said it was because of the cancer and had nothing to do with the billboards) and, while he’s empathetic toward McDormand’s character, he doesn’t seem to take personal responsibility for not capturing the rapist — no evidence — nothing he can do. Enlighten me if you can, because I have been unable to find a cohesive theme.

    • I’m curious as to what YOU think this film is about? It’s obviously not a film based on any discernible reality I know of. It’s a world where people keep fire extinguishers on the front seat of their car, people get away with fire-bombing police stations, cops throw people out of windows in broad daylight, and people can kick school-aged children in the crotch with impunity. In addition, all of the characters are caricatures. Do you know anyone like Mildred or Dixon? Any “message” is undercut by the sheer absurdity of the film, and the constant attempts at humor that trivializes certain things. Spousal abuse is a source of laughter, but I guess rape and murder aren’t as funny?

      Ultimately, I don’t think the film has ANY message at all.

      • Okay thank you!!! This made me laugh. I was wondering how you have a fire extinguisher that can put out a billboard on fire, and all the other things you said. I just want my 5.99 back from Spectrum. It is just pathetic and also so damaging in all the disgusting ways they talk to each other, portray cultures, and on and on and on.

  17. Thought I was the only one. I almost walked out but sat out the remaining 30m

    One of the worst movies I’ve seen in a long time. Unfortunately, if it wins one Oscar then 2018 was a sham

    • Agree 100% All I could barely sit through it. All I could say at the end was, “What on earth is wrong with people?”

  18. This review echoes a lot my thoughts about the movie. Implied here, but I’d make explicit, is one more thing. Too many plotlines that went nowhere. I fail to see how this was important commentary about the times we live in. That doesn’t always matter, but it was not funny or particularly dramatic, most of the time.

  19. I haven’t left a theater so irritated at a film for wasting my time since Eyes Wide Shut. This film is just plain bad. The acting is good, but the story is juvenile, the scenes are one dimensional shtick, and much of it is preposterously unbelivable.. People think this is edgy arty filmmaking? Just a bad movie.

  20. Excellent review, thank you. I was having a hard time putting into words why this movie annoyed me so much.
    I am a big fan of McDonagh. I loved “In Bruges,” which was a multi-layered story and ultimately about redemption. I have read all of his plays and find them to be startlingly vivid and new in view point.
    However, “Three Billboards” was so utterly jarring. It felt like being held at gunpoint to watch people scream, curse, rant, rave, commit heinous acts of violence & have Utterly ZERO conclusion at the end.
    The acting was brilliant. I am in awe of McDormand and Rockwell. The film, however, wasted the talents of the other actors.
    And seriously, every 3rd word was F*** or C*** or C**K. I am a real person & in some situations, I have used the F*** word. But never, ever the C*** word. It was like being in the cafeteria, surrounded by 7th grade boys trying to get my attention by cursing.
    I thought some of the scenes were wonderful, like when Rockwell was on the phone & his mother, sound asleep, had a turtle crawling into her lap. That was absurd, strange, amusing.
    Well, sorry—this is all over the place but that’s how the movie was. Just leaping around, confusing. Leaving me wondering why.

  21. I wanted to walk out after 20 minutes. I didn’t, but it just got worse. This movie was so tonaly inconsistent. It tried to be Fargo, or Blood Simple but failed. Some of the violence was too brutal and realistic to coexist with humor. McDormand’s act wore thin quickly. And Rockwell -was he a impish, pitiful loser or a tough and able sort? I winced many times at flat scenes, awkward moments, and terrible dialogue. I only saw 4 movies all year. I liked this movie even less than the Blade Runner sequel (loved the original). I disliked this movie even more than the Shape of Water -which I thoroughly disliked. I liked this movie much less than the Post, which is also overrated but par for the course of a Spielberg film. This seems to me to be a low period for cinema. These are not great films, even from a commercial, Hollywood perspective.

  22. Cop throws a man out a fucking 2nd floor window and it’s like … nothin ! Business as usual. Come on !!! Fuckin stoopid movie. What a waste of space, time, talent and money.

  23. I couldn’t agree more. Was expecting big things but thought it was awful. Terribly contrived when Sam tockwell’s character overhears that conversation in the end?? What are the chances??
    Frances McDormand gets away with physically assaulting two school children. Never hears a peep about it after.
    Sam Rockwell’s character throws a guy out of a first floor window. Just gets sacked. No criminal investigation, no jail sentence. Then to rub it in when he burns they put him in the same room as the victim. The whole film is a joke! I am scratching my head as to what the fuss is, I really am

  24. I don’t think the characters were interesting or dimensional at all and I thought the casting was really off … too glamorous and forced…I was not surprised to find out it was written by someone who was not at all from Missouri or America – it felt like these characters were cliches and yes there was so many holes in the story – I hated this film and I rarely hate a film… I thought I Tonya had characters who clearly were troubled and did some terrible things but the performances were so believable … I thought that I Tonya was robbed for being included in the best film category and the actors robbed as well that were not nominated for their amazing rich performances

  25. It is a truly terrible film. I’m stunned people think it’s even a “good movie.” I nearly walked out of it. I think the Oscar talk and awards is more a product of the film’s social/political messages appealing to an industry that wants to believe that’s what it stands for. Don’t get me wrong I’m all for any political message that’s well done but this was just ridiculous in my opinion. I didn’t know who wrote or directed the film but I could tell in about 5 minutes that they had likely never set foot in the South let alone lived in it. Of course the writer is a British playwright.. The portrayal of the South was absurdly cartoonish. Policeman in the South aren’t throwing completely innocent people out of second-story windows totally unprovoked then proceeding to pummel them brutally in the middle of Main Street and walking right back into the police station, of course, right on main street with no consequences whatsoever in broad daylight on Sunday afternoon…oh and of course punching a woman right in the face beforehand. AND…Woody Harrelson bumbling Bumpkin sheriff in a small southern town is married to a an Australian supermodel with the accent?? Those Billboards would have been painted over the same day they were put up. Suspension of disbelief just wasn’t there at all…How about the awful CGI deer and “After School Special” moment between the protagonist and said deer…or the bizarre and gross “sex in the woods while our kids fish in the river nearby” set up with Harrelson and his Aussie beauty. Who does that? I could go on and on about what drove me crazy about this movie. I CANNOT believe it is up for Best Picture. If that’s the case than I am Elvis Presley.

    • Totally with you Robert. I never post anything in discussions online but this movie was so terrible for all the reasons you stated.

    • Late to the game here but had to say you nailed it completely. I am halfway through the movie as I type this and I had to pause, scratch my head, and then Google, “Three Bill Outside…. overrated”. Feeling redemeemed in my distaste for such an over-hyped, cartoonish movie after reading this and the comments.

      I feel that Sam Rockwell can rarely (if ever) do wrong so I was genuinely excited to see this movie but my lord, what a mess. All of it.

      51 minutes left. Don’t think I can do it.

  26. I also think the hype around it is meant to block The Post which is a film whose message is SO ESSENTIAL and such a timely reminder of the corruption of the American Government. I wonder about the awards shows … being run by the networks. hmmmmm….

    • Thank you! That dreadful “fishing scene” with the supermodel and her post … off in the woods….dialogue referencing Oscar Wilde!

  27. I was equally disappointed in the film for all the reasons you stated. I have NO idea why it’s up for so many awards. It’s terrible on so many fronts, and an incredible waste of talent. I agree with you about the lack of growth of Francis McDormand’s character. I walked out of the theater wondering why on earth it was considered anything close to “best picture”. It started out bad and never got better. While there was some growth in Willoughby and Dixon, there was no accountability for Dixon’s behavior. At any rate, you covered it, and you wrote (more eloquently what I would have written had I done an article about this movie. Hated it….truly hope it doesn’t upend The Post as The Post was a great movie with great casting/acting and very deserving of best picture.

  28. I loved your article too! And yes… Dr. Neyer… The Post is a great film on so many levels … women’s issues with their own power … what it took for that woman to take that risk at that time… and her daughter being there for her… and the lying of our government which is still happening on a far greater level… the power of the press to deal with this information suppression and faux patriotism in the form of propaganda … omg you can’t compare and the machine behind three billboards feels like suppression to me …

  29. Unfulfilling. Because the story never gets to an ordeal or climax, there is no real closure (spoiler alert). So we are left to try to appreciate the movie based on the character journeys. But these are predictable and mostly go unfinished. Only Dixon really goes through a transformation. The female lead starts angry, stays angry and ends angry. One dimensional… no growth. Obvious undertones of racism are never dealt (and they really don’t contribute to the story or contribute much to the character journey / so why make these overatures without ever dealing with them?). Same issue for crimes against women – no real consequence or moral about anything. Again, the only thing that made this a story was Dixon’s transformation…. but it’s a really boring movie to endure to see a cliche character.

  30. You are brilliant!
    What you wrote in your reviews was identical to how I felt after watching hands downs the WORST film I’ve watched in my entire life. Nothing lined up, it was all over the place, the movie ended when it should have continued. I can’t not believe anyone saw this than anything else than the WORST film arguably ever made. I would be ashamed to be affiliated with this garbage production as it was an embarrassment.

  31. Any awards should be retracted! That was just the worst movie from start to finish. Nothing was resolved nothing made sense. By far the worst film in history!!!
    Golden Globes should be embarrassed.

  32. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your review. I couldn’t agree more with ALL of your comments.
    I have been nearly spellbound by the lavish praise from media (and not to mention all my friends) that
    has been bestowed on Billboards.
    Truly thought I was alone in my “hatred” for this garbage movie. So much so, I thought I’d get
    a hold of Willouby’s gun and shoot MYSELF.> Now I can live!!

    • I totally agree. The praise of this film and the election of Donald Trump seem to be symptomatic of everything that is wrong with “Merica these days. Perhaps this movie too was secretly funded by Russian oligarchs.

  33. A waste of time. The only character I liked was Pam and she got punched in the face. At least it wasn’t as bad as Manchester By The Sea. I don’t need to watch a movie to get depressed. All I need to watch is the replay of game six of the Red Sox/Mets World Series. Movies are supposed to be fun.

  34. I had a feeling it was going to be one of these race baiting movies so I just rented it for $5.99 There wasn’t a lovable character in the whole movie . Not even likable! Mildred was pathetic! She was no less hateful then anybody else in that city !
    She had a horrible relationship with her daughter for sure ! It was only out of guilt that she made this huge attempt to avenge her daughters murder. That scene with the fat redneck dentist was really stupid! So tell me…..they are trying to find a murderer rapist that wasn’t even the one that raped her child? I think they threw every racial liberal talking point, and threw it against the wall to see what would stick . Not well done.. So a little note from Woody turns a lifelong racist into a good guy? Are you really going to believe what he heard in the bar after his head was just scorched ? Give me a break ! They even mentioned something about Donald Sutherland and then mentioned his hair? Could that be the sneaky way of taking a jab Donald Trump? They must think this audience is really dumb and gullible . Was it really necessary for Mildred to wear a Doo rag while she’s burning down the police station? She sure wasn’t interrogated very much ! Even racist cops would have treated their new black police chief better than that . They are really going to risk their pension and whole career by berating the new boss the first minute you meet him? Anyway, you get my point. It sucked!

    • No disagree it is t just about having fun, I loved Manchester and could see why Casey won and found it all thought provoking . This POS movie did nothing at all, I felt nothing , it meant nothing , it affected me nothing , frances performance nothing .

  35. I thought it was horrible and I found it stupid and nothing special at all about frances ‘ performance . I just don’t understand why they awarded her . She already has one that she deserved ! But this is just a mess .. give it to Streep whose performance was amazing . Give to newcomer but surely not this . Compare to oldham’s performance and she should be embarrassed . And what was with the nervous laughter and all that bunk , god damn just accept the award frances . So not impressed at all

    • Agree with you completely.
      I ended up disrespecting her for even taking that part. It showed a want of judgment. It was simply irredeemably terrible.

  36. A turd of a
    Movie please don’t waste your hard earned money . It stinks this movie . It is a nothing turd of a movie and Do not go . Can’t believe they gave Sam an Oscar for this turd of a movie and his silly stupid performance . As far as frances who cares about your stupid performance . I don’t think I can watch you anymore . Sam you seem nice but I’m not watching you anymore because I don’t want to waste my time and my money ?

  37. Honestly, this review reassured me that I was not losing my mind. I assumed that given the praise this movie has received it would be good, maybe great… This review nails it. Don’t let brilliant acting fool you into thinking a movie is also brilliant. This was one of the worst movie experiences of my life. Any attempt at humour in this film was stunningly misplaced… I will say no more… this review nails it.

    • Totally agree. I hadn’t heard about it before renting it from Red Box. When it was over, after lifting my jaw off the floor, I ran to the computer to read all the terrible reviews and chastise myself for not checking them before watching it. Wrong. Academy award nominations? What on earth? I thought I must be out of my mind. I’ve been desperately searching for confirmation that I’m not the only one.

  38. The movie ended about 4 hours ago in my household. It’s the wee hours of morning and I have had some time to reflect on it. SUCKVILLE!!! I understand the lame attempt at resolution between a few of the characters, but c’mon!!?? Anyone with half a brain would find this movie predictable. It was horrible! There is SO much unbelievable crap in this movie that my mind is still bewildered. Just watch it. Dear lord, why? WHY I ASK??

  39. Thank you so much for your review!!!! I am reeling from how awful that movie was and aghast at all the hype around it. Feeling more grounded to read others who feel the same. Geezus…..


  41. This movie was god awful. I disagree with your raving about Frances McDormand being a great actress. At her best, she’s quirky. A great actor makes you interested in their plight……….they inspire you to watch. Perhaps it’s her unkempt look in most movies she’s in or characters she plays, that makes her unwatchable for me. The problem with this film, is there isn’t a strong narrative. Things don’t build, there is no pacing, and they tell us the tragedy in the beginning. It doesn’t give the audience time to develop any emotional feelings. Take a great movie like Deliverance. They build up to the tragedy by developing the characters and transporting us into their world. When horrific events befell them, our emotions are invested, and we care about what’s going to transpire. I didn’t care about any character or sub plot in this entire movie. They were all one dimensional and unsympathetic. .

    • Wait I’ve got it. I’m dying of pancreatic cancer. My grand plan is to screw my wife and then describe that as “fucking”. Lovely. I’m beginning to believe all the conspiracy theories about this country.

  42. spot on! i am shocked at all the accolades!
    you hit in everything and more-
    but i must add the woody harrelson death scene was so dumb, so poorly written, that we were laughing. the letter he writes “you won’t remember me sick – you’ll remember me inside of you”!
    oh my god …..just horrific screenwriting

  43. Absolutely hated it! Could not wait for it to be over. IF I had been alone I would have walked out. I watched it with a friend who just thought it was a great movie, she thought it was funny (?). It was her birthday so I sat through it, but it literally made me nauseous. The dialog was beyond horrible, offensive. The people were empty caricatures, the plot was pathetic, their was little redeeming about it. I kept thinking as I watched it, who is the pathetic human being who wrote this, what a waste of time, movie and talent. It was insulting to me as a viewer. My friend told me, well I guess you’ve never been to Missouri? Right.

  44. Missouri and the people who live in the Ozarks area should stage some walk outs to protest the disgusting portrayal of their state and people. Stupidest movie with the biggest stars I have ever seen. I cannot even stop hating it more the more I think of it.

    • Totally agree. What a self righteous pile of inaccurate condemnation on a group of people. I thought Hollywood was above such things. (Not)

  45. I agree. Good review. I just watched it. 100% moronic drivel. I could write a few pages on how bad it was but I have already wasted part of my life watching it.

  46. OMG I just realised she won an Oscar for this!! I work at a school and I quite literally have seen far better performances at our school plays, minus all the pointless degenerate profanity.

  47. Did not even come close to getting this movie…I thought I was watching some kind of who done it/mystery thing. Very weird….good acting, but weird with no ending. Sorry, didn’t get the point of any of it.

  48. I felt like my attention until the end movie was a complete waste of time. I kept waiting for the lightbulb moment when “I got” the message where the moral (or amoral) underpinnings of the story finally made sense. I thought it was one of the worst movies I have seen in some time. Was it trying to be a demented, dark comedy? I swear I still don’t know. Any faith I had left in humanity was shattered when I began to understand what these everyday “Joes and Janes” were capable of. Utterly shocking…and not funny!! (but that’s just me)..

  49. My entire body hurts from cringing throughout this entire movie. So utterly contrived & forced; the writing, the acting, the humor, the plot, the swearing, the violence. 2 hours of my life wasted.

  50. I hated this movie. I hated Woody Harrelson’s character saying “god damn” to his children several times at the lake. No dad would do that. I hated thr scene where the mom said to her daughter, “I hope you get raped.”. No mother would say that. I really hated the scene where Dixon is witnessed by the new sheriff and he gets to keep the keys to the police station THAT IS CLOSED!!!! And who doesn’t notice flames outside open windows, even if your back is turned. This movie was horrible.

  51. The worst film I have ever seen. Just constant swearing and gratuitous violence. I don’t know where the comedy was supposed to be, unless you think violence is funny. I actually walked out after an hour and I have never walked out in the middle of a film before

  52. I want to say thanks for your review because I thought I was taking crazy pills with the gushing response this movie got. And I say that as a fan of In Bruges and 7 Psychopaths.

    I was actively repulsed by this movie.

    One thing I would add, and you mentioned it for the women, but also the black characters are nothing but cyphers for the racist white cop story. Particularly egregious is the owner of the gift shop. I think it’s distasteful for an outisder (Irish) writer to set a film in Missouri of all places and have police racism and brutality be a central theme and give no characterization or voice to the victims of it.

  53. Absolutely great film……wildly unique and complex with a grand assortment of characters that could definitely exist in a town like Ebbing. Redemption is found by Dixon via Willoughby’s final letter to him and his going thru the fire. He passes his redemption onto Mildred by giving her the one day of “hope” concerning the DNA test. You can see the visible manifestations of Mildred becoming less consumed by her rage during the brief road trip to Idaho segment.
    This quirky film deserved all it’s nominations and subsequent awards.

  54. Agree, 100%. Extra shit points for the plot holes/unanswered questions:
    1. Why does Mildred happen to have an industrial sized fire extinguisher when passing the burning billboards?
    2. Why does Mildred spend $5,000 on the shitty unused billboards FOR A SINGLE MONTH when she easily could have rented them for way, way longer at that price? (Proof: Ad sales is astonished/overjoyed with the payment.)
    3. How is everything Dixon does go without penalty, which you mention above? Additional example: The new black Staff Sgt. (or other title) cares not when he is openly disrespected for his race to his face.

    I was SO pumped to see this movie and I could not have been more disappointed.

  55. As art this movie sucked. But it was not intendd as art. It was intended as a sucker punch to all movie goers across the south who voted for you know who. It is for this the awards were given.
    Imagine spending millions on a movie just to say F U to a certain swath of the veiwing public. This director is an arse.

  56. Totally agree with this review! SO disappointed at the potential of this movie and all the great actors involved. Hard to even watch, like it was trying to mimic some very good movies, but failing miserably. It would have been hard for me acting in this movie, to recite this script… Brutally bad. Sad.

  57. Agree 100%
    Overly contrived.
    I do think it was Dickson who burned the billboards, not Charlie, but who cares.
    Why was Willoughby’s wife Australian?! No one who looks like her would be in that town. Only the local Keystone Cops investigated the crime? Never. McDormand’s character works at a gift shop (although she’s never there) yet is able to financially maintain a home and tractor-worthy piece of property?
    There’s nothing funny, so no idea how it’s called a black comedy….and I have a dark sense of humor.
    There were too many things going on and none of them worked.
    The ending was laughable, only in its absurdity.
    Glad we didn’t pay to see this.

  58. Shamefully bad, the collective derangement of this nonsensical cast is only surpassed by the vacuous wannabes that made and fawned over this pile of

  59. I agree overrated what a mess of a movie all of the politically correct cultural touchstones very predictable numerous mistakes with continuity and it was just someone pushing the buttons of what people in Hollywood would like not middle America it was sickening it was just a movie nothing more neither good nor bad

  60. UPDATE… I changed my mind ….this movie is much worse than I thought

    ….when I wrote the review just above I was only halfway through it and then it just started getting worse

    I don’t think I can finish watching It…

    I can’t believe Hollywood put this movie on a pedestal it is some really bad movie making

    Contrived predictable politically correct crap

    Anybody in flyover country who likes this movie must be really bored or really stupid

    One of Hollywood’s worst movies perhaps ever

    It was almost like they were trying to dredge up the glory of the movie Fargo but badly badly failed

    they must know this movie sucks like we do right?

    It’s so bad it’s sort of embarrassing

  61. You got it right.
    Laughably horrible film (does that make it a dark comedy?).
    Absolutely hated it.
    I was on a plane watching with headphones laughing out loud and groaning at all the contrived nonsense.
    Not funny. Not dramatic. Not thought provoking. Not anything.
    Even Francis seemed one note to me.
    The only bit that touched me was the scene you mentioned, where the sheriff caughed up blood in her face and she said something like ” Are you ok… baby……..”
    That seemed honest, real and human unlike the rest of the film.
    Francis must have ad libbed that line.

  62. I googled “I hate Three Billboards…etc” and found your review. Totally agree!
    I didn’t like it at all, and I really love most films I see!!

    • That’s funny I Googled the same thing hoping that I could find at least one person who agreed with me. They made such a big deal out of this movie that I thought it was going to be another Gone with the Wind. What a disappointment!

  63. My bigtruck is in the shop (for weeks) and I’m in a hotel. So I’ve been getting lost in old movies and have been looking for new ones.

    I paid $15 for this on iTunes last night. Academy Award winner (Best Actress) and all the great reviews helped me choose, and I enjoyed Fargo. I am half way through as of today. I paused it a half dozen times to go on Twitter, read news, and finally to find something else (The Dog is a fascinating doc on the real guy who robbed the bank in Dog Day Afternoon).

    Thanks for taking the time to write your review. I found it by googling “Bad review Three Billboards… You’ve covered it well. My first alert was the scene between the billboard painter and the Officer Dixon. Although the painter gave an authentic performance, the scene was poorly written and rather farcical.

    Yeah the young girlfriend scene earned a pause from me too.

    Anyone reading who hasn’t seen Nick Gomez’s “Laws of Gravity”, watch it to counter the extremely bad 3B. It cost around $35,000 bucks to make, and the acting will blow you away.

  64. Dude, you nailed it and got so much right, but if it was an exam you’d only get a 95. Solid A, but you lose points for any effort, no matter how innocent, to defend Sam Rockwell’s performance. One of the paradoxes of this movie is so many good actors doing a good job. But not Rockwell, there is not a single redeeming quality to his PERFORMANCE. Forget the character and whether he is good or bad, Rockwell got an Oscar for a performance that was beyond bad. I don’t know what made me cringe more, the “Nigger torturing”
    dialogue, Woody Harrelson’s pause and comedic response to “Nigger torturing” or Sam Rockwell doing his goofy dance with his AirPods on. But I still vividly remember shaking my head at the ArcLight while watching the AirPods dance, thinking that I was living in an alternate universe where people actually think this is a good movie.

  65. This movie lost me at “hello.” Ever since I first heard about it I assumed those boards would have something to say neither the people in the movie nor the audience would ever forget. Instead it was — what? what?? and what??? It was like something someone jotted down to remind themselves to come up with something better. Like the storyboard artist’s placeholder: “Better message here later.” So then, not only was the girl also gone and we had no reason to care about her, but when she did turn up in a flashback she was downright unlikeable. What was the point of that? Mothers love even horrible children? She was a child only a mother could love? And why keep targeting Willoughby? She HAD his attention, stupid rude billboards clearly weren’t going to change how he handled the case. And why would the whole close, tight, “everybody is family” town suddenly hate her? Because of a couple of stupid ineptly worded billboards? Oh, right, support for the police chief. Who if he was actually that loved, respected, and great at his job would have told everybody to knock it off immediately, and they would have. Except he wouldn’t have had to, because nobody would’ve cared. I live in a small town, I know. Everybody would think it was kind of dumb and sadly amusing and be bored by it in five minutes. And bring her casseroles and advise her to spend her money more wisely. No matter how rude and hateful she was, because she clearly was that even before the murder, because grief doesn’t suddenly cause people to develop personality disorder. Anyway, I never forgot for one second I was watching a movie, a very, very bad movie. And what’s really funny for a movie seeming to preach about the futility of anger — if it was in fact actually trying to say anything — is the ending. No matter how long a movie drags on (like this one), and no matter how fervently you are praying for it to end (like me with this one), I think we endure the full torture because we hope against hope that SOMETHING will happen at the end to justify, or explain, or somehow redeem the two hours we just wasted. Or maybe to convince us we were wrong and something amazing really did just happen (as in The Usual Suspects). In that sense this movie actually ended a little early, or suddenly, or…whatever. I think it could actually have faded to the single word “WHATEVER.” Which made me — angry. I suddenly, fleetingly, viscerally, primitively wanted to jump in the car, go find whoever was responsible and throw them out a window. Bad movie. Bad, bad movie.

  66. Phew! Thank you! My fellow film-loving adult kids and I took a while to get around to watching this movie, expecting great things but couldn’t believe how bad it was. The lack of the filmmakers’ understanding of tone – dark vs comedy, the atrociously unaddressed racism, the unauthentic characterization of ‘small-town folk’ looking more like they’d walked out of a beauty salon rather than people living at the edge of existence – worn-down by life of trauma -person who would actually endure that level of violence… Nothing in it felt authentic! A quarter of the way in we started joking and cracking up about ridiculous outcomes, which then became the actual outcomes! i.e. the idiot violent racist cop became the hero! What? What a complete waste of an amazing cast!

  67. I watched this for free while on an airline crossing the Atlantic, but decided to sleep instead halfway through. You know a movie is bad when it can´t even keep your attention on a long flight. The clouds were more entertaining. This movie is ludicrous. There is nothing remotely real in this intellectual jerk off. A stupid waste of all involved.

  68. I didn’t want to know anything about this movie before I watched it. I heard a lot of great things about it so I was excited to see it. A quarter of the way through it I started to think this can’t be a true story. I live in this area and I don’t know anybody who acts like this. This is obviously what the east and west coast people think of the people who live in the Fly Over States. So after I watched it I did some research and found out who wrote it and obviously McDonough who is from the UK has no idea how to write dialogue for people who live in the middle of the country. This film was a gigantic misfire.

  69. Agreed,

    But I must add,

    I was so so distracted by the casting of the extras and not players. I mean COME ON, this film is supposed to be set in rural but fuck America? Every minor person looked and dressed like some super styleeee millennial from Brooklyn.

    Plus the choice of Woody’s wife could not be more wrong.

    Don’t believe the hype.

  70. OK, I agree it was a terrible movie for all the reasons stated.

    But concerning the ending….was the writer trying to imply that the guy from Idaho really was guilty…that is, that there was a cover-up? But that he was just a witness, not the actual rapist?

    That would explain why there was no DNA match….but also why the guy would be hanging out in Missouri, threatening the mother.

    If you remember, all the guy denied in the shop was that he was the rapist……and in the bar he said something about ‘watching’.

    So….I’ve seen some comments from people who saw the film that the mother shoots the guy when she sees him, and recognizes him, in Idaho.

    Was this intentional ambiguity hidden in the screenplay…..as clumsy as the whole movie was I wouldn’t think so…..but what other explanation is there for the guy hanging out in MO over time?

  71. I was truly afraid everybody liked this movie. I truly was. I was starting to ask myself good grace! What is the world coming to ? can’t people see how godawful this movie is? How lamebrained manipulative audience- insulting and… well I guess I’m too much of gentleman to go on.. Then I fortunately stumbled on your review. And everything is right with the world. At least part of It.
    The movie has no consistency in tone, character portraial, ( or arc for that matter) style or dramatization. It wasn’t untill I read some review that I discovered It was actually intended ( at least in part) as a black comedy in the vain of the Cohen brothers. Looked like a revenge drama to me. Now I’ll admit I’m not particularly fond of those. But I can stand them If they revolve around sharply drawn characters. This movie has none. With the exception of harrelson, and some secondary character, ( some of which look and talk like Australian supermodel ( come on!!) many of which are irrelevant (see the horribly mistreated ” town dwarf”) everybody in this movie is despicable, insentive, dimwitted, or psychotic. In the metoo era the Francis Mcdormand’s character can possibly be mistaken for a strong woman. She’s not. Even though the movie seems to labour under the delusion that a wounded woman is allowed to behave like a raging sociopath and still come across as likable. And this is why this poorly toned rape-and – revenge drama, that makes that horrible Sally Field’s crap look like Dead Man Walking, appealed to so many people, I’m afraid. Lots and lots of saddened middleage women wonder around this days, tired of taking shit, tired of been used, tired of aging, tired of having their youth taken away from them by psychotic rapists, or abusive ex- husbands who end up banging Australian super-models ( this movie is set in a hickstown Missuri, I kid you not) and … well you get the point. What to do then? Lets set on a killing spree in the company of a dimwitted racist ex cop, who ( we are informed) has some good in him. So We’ll be then just as mean and dispicable as the afore mentioned jerks. Way to go
    For all the wonderful middle age women out there: you are better then that. And you are certainly better then this movie.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here