5 Reasons Why Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is Not a Good Film

Few things first – this film is not terrible, it has some great things about it and if you want to read my initial thoughts here’s my review: https://robsfocuspull.blog/2018/01/14/three-billboards-outside-ebbing-missouri-film-review/.  I’m not writing this to hate on the film, but rather to try and understand why I didn’t like it and so many others did.  Martin McDonagh is a good director and In Bruges is one of my favourite movies of all time so this is not an attempt to slate him or the cast involved, because they are clearly very talented. The film just didn’t click for me, and here are five reasons why…


  1. Comedy Set – Up

This is something I discussed in my short review, because it’s probably the thing that stands out the most.  I saw the film with a big crowd, so when everyone laughed it was loud in the cinema.  There was also the sheep affect where if one person laughs, everyone else does.  From the very beginning the film is set up as a comedy with its staging, writing and character design etc so the audience was instantly laughing.  This meant that when it got to a less funny moment they were still giggling, because the film had settled them in to that kind of movie.  Consequently I stopped caring about everything that was happening, because the situations were comedic rather than dramatic.  I don’t think it’s particularly groundbreaking to make light out of serious situations or make a film that is laugh out loud funny (this film often is) that touches on deeper themes – Mcdonagh did it perfectly with In Bruges.  This film doesn’t work like that, as the situations are too outrageously portrayed.  It is made like a comedy, therefore everything out of that genre didn’t land and overall made the film uninteresting.


  1. Sam Rockwell’s Character

Rockwell is one of the most underrated working actors, and has loads of great roles behind him.  He’s great in this film as the twisted cop Dixon, but the character isn’t.  Similar to my first point he’s set up as a joke, to a point where he’s almost a Blazing Saddles character.  In the first half of the movie he’s a complete spoof of a racist, stupid, violent police officer.  So why should I care? He’s not written as a real person, and only becomes intriguing in the second half of the film.



  1. Pointless Characters

This is the one that I find the most offensive, and it’s not really an offensive film.  It’s that the choices made by McDonagh on some of his characters are really strange.  Why is Willoughby’s (Woody Harrelson – the highlight of the movie) wife 20 years younger than him and Australian?  There seems no explanation to this in the film, and it adds nothing to Harrelson’s character.  Everything in a film has to be there for a reason, but there’s no reason to write her as that?  Maybe it’s a weird artistic choice or maybe it’s because filmmakers have this perverse problem of casting younger women to be wives of their male actors.  Another character that is pointless and just played to poke fun at is Mildred ex-husbands new girlfriend.  She is shown as a complete idiot, who has no function at all other than to say something daft for laughs.  Ha ha ha! Do you get it?  The husbands ran off with a younger better looking girl! But she’s fucking tool! Isn’t that hilarious?  They’ve simply aimed for the lowest common denominator here, and for me made a really ugly decision.  Why does she have to be really dumb?  Is the film not funny enough already?  They could have made her a normal human, the ex-husband character is a horrible person already – him having a girlfriend with no brain cells doesn’t make him any worse.  Just because you have a female lead, doesn’t mean you can disregard every other female character as a puppet.  Also Peter Dinklage is totally unutilised in the film, and references to his height became too frequent and dull.


  1. Boring Direction

This film has one great piece of direction in it, and that’s about it.  The rest of it is shot very ordinary, and at times is quite disjointed.  For dialogue he just cuts quickly between each character, making every conversation lose weight and not once did I feel McDonagh try to say something with his camera.  As well as this he occasionally makes weird jumps to action that leave you feeling a bit bemused.  There’s a bit with a knife that is so out of character and out of place that I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  It must have been another joke.



  1. The Deer

I despise it when a director has a random bit of CGI in to break the drama.  In one scene Frances McDormand talks to a deer (that looks like a cartoon) to tell her everything that she’s feeling.  AGAIN, did we need that? It pulls you completely out of the film, and it is so cringey.  After that I gave up on it all.



Like I said in my review if you go into this film thinking it as a strange comedy parable, you’ll probably enjoy it.  However the poor choices McDonagh made lead it to be nothing more than that.  It is not a good film.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Film Review

In Bruges is one of my favourite movies of all time, and unlike a lot of people I really liked Seven Psychopaths, so I was looking forwards to Martin Mcdonagh’s new project.  With this film he has the backdrop of small town America, where middle-aged mother Mildred (Frances McDormand) reminds the local police about the murder of her daughter by renting out Billboards just outside of town.  The signs are provocative and question the police on why there haven’t been any arrests in seven months.  From here she engages in a conflict with the police department, and of course herself.

There are a couple of things to get out of the way before I discuss the major problems this film has.  First of all, I found no problem in the films attitudes towards race and McDonagh does well at creating a dark character from this.  Second of all, if you take this film for what it is, then it is absolutely fine.  It is a decently structured movie that has some laugh out loud moments, and a few nice pieces of direction.  The problems come from that structure however, and the way the story is told.  Right from the very beginning the film is humorous – almost to a point where certain scenes are set up like full – on comedies (talking sitcom level).  This means that when particular scenes are meant to me more dramatic, audience’s chuckle because they are in the comedy mind-set.  In nearly every scene of the first half of the film it is played for laughs, so the second more interesting half loses a lot of its weight.  Consequently there was a distance from myself and the narrative because of how comic the situations and characters were.

Frances McDormand as the central character does a good job, but because of the themes of the film her character wasn’t totally likeable.  This is kind of the point though, about how crippling regret and grief can be so McDormand handles it all well.  Sam Rockwell is terrific as ridiculous cop Dixon in the second half of the film, and just sort of funny in the first.  It has an incredible supporting cast behind them, including a cute Woody Harrelson performance, though the choice to cast a younger woman from Australia as his wife didn’t make much sense?  Peter Dinklage is under-utilised (considering he’s in the top 1% of dramatic actors) and his stature is overplayed.  Overall the great cast keep the film watchable, but mostly their characters were cartoonish.


This is the first review of the year that I’m struggling to keep under 500 words so maybe I’ll write something else about it.  I would describe it as a good film, but nowhere near as good as the praise it has been receiving.  There were so many little moments that felt out of place in a grounded film about loss?  I would like to ask McDonagh if he meant for it to be a sub-realistic parable, rather than a black drama slash comedy.  Perhaps that would make the film work a bit better.


Is it worth the price of a cinema ticket?

Yes.  (Just close your eyes and put your fingers in your ears when the deer arrives).