Gentle Reader, I am now going to save you some money.
I watched Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri with great expectations, primarily because I had read some of Martin McDonagh’s plays and found them very funny. Unfortunately, what works in one culture may not translate to another, or possibly Mr. McDonagh’s judgment was simply way off this time, something that happens to all artists, but he needs to go back to his Irish roots, because he missed the mark here by a long chalk.
Welcome to Ebbing, Missouri. Where the highest IQ in town is below room temperature. Where every single person in town is a cardboard stereotype of a kind that was boringly unrealistic before the passage of the Civil Rights Bill. Where the height of humorous repartee is children calling their mothers “cunts.” Where no one—not a single character, regardless of age or profession—is capable of saying a ten-word sentence without five of the words being some variation of the word “fuck,” as either noun, verb, adverb, adjective, preposition, or conjunction. Where the chief of police talks to his five- and six-year-old daughters in a steady stream of crude profanity, not in anger, but to express affection. Where the most rudimentary concepts of the law and law enforcement are—apparently—unknown. Where a cop can commit a murderous assault against an innocent man in the middle of the day as most of the town—including the new police chief—watch, and then only get fired for his brutality. Where ridiculing a dwarf—the only character in the movie with any real humanity—is considered a source of amusement. Where the Special Forces who risk their lives for us are portrayed as rapists and sadists who enjoy terrorizing and psychologically torturing women they don’t know. And where the denouement, the epiphany, the god-like revelation of the central character, consists of her deciding she doesn’t really want to murder an innocent man she doesn’t know and has no reason to kill. Oh, breathless humanity!
Writer and director Martin McDonagh must have thought all the episodes he watched of The Dukes of Hazard were actually documentaries. He has certainly never been to Missouri or any other deplorable-packed part of fly-over country, and he revels in his contempt for the barely sentient toothless morons who inhabit that wasteland. Beyond that, he seems to think that the average movie-goer is far too stupid to be aware of such meaningless incidentals as Constitutional rights, legal rights, civil rights, or even right of way.
With the exception of a handful of movies made for brain-dead prepubescent boys that I had the misfortune to watch years ago, this is the stupidest movie I’ve ever seen. The only reason I didn’t walk out of the theater is because I watched it on Direct TV in my living room, and when the final credits ran, Darleen and I looked at each other and wondered what the hell we had wasted six dollars and two hours for.
The performances are all perfectly good, not Oscar-worthy, but good (and yes, I know who won what), but the greatest performances in the world can’t change chicken shit into chicken salad (to use a phrase that would have been eloquent in this dreadful movie) and when the script insults my willing suspension of disbelief consistently, from soup to nuts, no performance is worth the pain. I know it was intended to be a dark comedy, but even comedy has to be grounded in some kind of reality, and besides, I don’t think mindless violence and mindless profanity are all that chuckle-worthy. Beyond that, the grief of a mother whose teenaged daughter has been raped and murdered makes a poor springboard for hearty laughter.
On IMDB, the first quote of Martin McDonagh’s that caught my eye was: “Well, we’re all cruel, aren’t we?” And the greatest cruelty of all was his making this movie. The state of Missouri should sue for defamation.