(director/writer: Martin McDonagh; cinematographer: Ben Davis; editor: Jon Gregory; music: Carter Burwell; cast: Frances McDormand (Mildred Hayes), Woody Harrelson (Chief Willoughby), Sam Rockwell (Officer Dixon), Abbie Cornish (Anne), Lucas Hedges (Robbie), Zeljko Ivanek (Desk Sergeant), Caleb Landry Jones (Red Welby), Clarke Peters (Abercrombie), Samara Weaving (Penelope), John Hawkes (Charlie), Peter Dinklage (Dwarf Car Salesman), Sandy Martin (Momma Dixon), Amanda Warren (Denise), Brendan Sexton III (Crop-hared Guy), Kerry Condon (Pam), Kathryn Newton (Angela), Nick Searcy (Father Montgomery), Darrell Britt-Gibson (Jerome); Runtime: 115; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Graham Broadbent/Pete Czernin/Martin McDonagh; Fox Searchlight; 2017)

Frances McDormand is superb, giving an Oscar type of uncompromising performance in a film that is Fargo good.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

So far it’s the best movie of the year I’ve seen. Irish playwright-turned-filmmaker Martin McDonagh (“In Bruges”/”Seven Psychopaths”) is writer-director of this terrific revenge thriller that manages to be comical besides being so dark and brutal. It tells the tale of the divorced gift shop owner, Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand), and her guilt-trip over the abduction, sadistic rape and murder of her teen-age daughter (Kathryn Newton) seven months ago and the inaction of the police to solve the case. According to Mildred, the cops are “too busy torturing black folks” to catch the real criminals. The unsmiling fiery Mildred launches a one-woman crusade to get the police to continue to investigate the case they stopped investigating because of no leads. She rents for $5,000 a month three empty billboards on a deserted back road from the local ad agent (Caleb Landry Jones) to call attention to the cold case and call out the Ebbing police chief, William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), for his ineptitude. The billboards say: “Still No Arrests?” “How Come, Chief Willoughby?” and “Raped While Dying.” The chief is a thoughtful family man dying from cancer and is privately bothered that he can’t get the killer but resents the public humiliation. His deputy is Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell), a momma’s boy, a racist, a moron and a bullying cop. Once the billboards are up and a local TV show covers it, the story connects with the public and things start becoming explosive in town and emotions run high. Mildred’s troubled family life is revealed and we observe how the town reacts to her attacks on their beloved police chief and how the chilling but effective reaction is gotten from the billboards. As it concludes, there are some unexpected events that maybe give it a too neat ending, but it worked for me. Lucas Hedges plays Mildred’s protective, gentle and caring but long-suffering teenage son, John Hawkes is her abusive middle-aged former cop husband who is now living with the 19-year-old (Samara Weaving) sweet bimbo, Peter Dinklage is the insecure dwarf used car salesman who befriends Mildred and wishes to date her. Frances McDormand is superb, giving an Oscar type of uncompromising performance in a film that is Fargo good.