Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Rated 2.0

New rule: anyone who stumps for this Midwestern black comedy from writer-director Martin McDonagh is forbidden from complaining about the Coen brothers’ supposed lack of empathy ever again.  McDonagh previously gave us two smart and self-aware genre films with In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, but this feels more like the work of someone who spent his entire life locked in a dark room, only learning about human nature through the movies.  Frances McDormand leads the cast as Mildred Hayes, a grieving mother still burning mad about her daughter’s unsolved murder.  Mildred directs her righteous rage at the bumbling and racist police force led by cancer-stricken Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), purchasing three confrontational billboards along the same lonely stretch of road where her daughter was raped and killed.  From the lowest-common-denominator, hate-speech shock value of the dialogue to the third-act insertion of a rapist ex machina, Three Billboards … is genuinely loathsome.