By Travis J. Klemann
An outspoken grieving mother, a dying police chief and an alcoholic racist cop steer much of the harmonious mix of searing drama and black comedy found in this unsolved murder story.
With a duration of 115 minutes, writer and director Martin McDonagh crafted an intense and emotional tale that featured memorable performances from its experienced cast which led to two Academy Award wins (Best Actress - Frances McDormand and Best Supporting Actor - Sam Rockwell).
Teenager Angela Hayes was raped and burned alive, this happened seven months ago yet no arrests have been made. The victim's distraught mother, Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand), rents three abandoned billboards with a bold message for Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson). This decision upsets the townspeople as it's no secret that their police chief is suffering from terminal pancreatic cancer.
Officer Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell) takes offense to Mildred's lack of authority which leads to him abusing his power against both her co-worker Denise and Red Welby, the man who rented her the billboards.
Despite Mildred's son Robbie and ex-husband Charlie both disapproving of the billboards, she firmly maintains her stance in demanding justice for her daughter. Not even an altercation with the dentist or a creepy customer can falter this courageous woman's drive for answers.
Mildred and Robbie find the billboards have been set ablaze and they attempt to extinguish the fire but it's too late. Mildred then assumes an officer caused the arson, thereby leading her to retaliate by tossing Molotov cocktails at the police station.
In a bar, Jason Dixon overhears a man bragging of a crime similar to the Angela Hayes case. He checks the man's license plates which are from Idaho and initiates a fight by scratching the man's face in order to obtain a DNA sample.
Unfortunately, it's revealed the DNA sample doesn't match and the suspect was overseas at the time of the murder.
Dixon is still convinced the man is guilty of committing a heinous crime against a young woman, although possibly not Angela, and recruits Mildred for a drive to Idaho.
They reveal reservations regarding their mission but proceed with the trip as they'll make their decision on the way there.
4/5 Stars - Highly Recommended
PS: While the ending may not satisfy most viewers, I believe it's a take on the saying "art imitates life" as some questions are never fully answered. We may not know who the definitive killer is when the credits roll but sometimes that happens in life. The ending leaves you pondering what did they decide to do and is the main character content with stopping one bad man despite him not being her primary target.
Does the scale of justice balance evenly?