“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (Fox Searchlight)

Sam Rockwell and Frances McDormand star in a scene from the movie "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri." The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. (CNS/Fox)

By Catholic News Service

Enraged by the stalled investigation into the gruesome rape and murder of her daughter, an embittered woman (a majestic Frances McDormand) plasters the structures of the title with signs attacking the local police, specifically targeting their widely loved chief (Woody Harrelson). Her action sets off a small-scale civil war in the community that gradually draws in the chief’s violence-prone second-in-command (Sam Rockwell), the mild-mannered head (Caleb Landry Jones) of the advertising company that owns the billboards, a dwarf who sells used cars (Peter Dinklage) as well as the protagonist’s teen son (Lucas Hedges) and ex-husband (John Hawkes).

The dramatic power of writer-director Martin McDonagh’s emotional dynamo of a film as well as the glimmers of hope he allows to shine through his bleak assessment of the human condition would normally permit endorsement for a circumscribed group of adult moviegoers, despite the many seamy elements in dialogue and action. But a plotline justifying suicide in some circumstances as well as a vicious diatribe against the Catholic priesthood make the picture spiritually unfit for all.

Anti-Catholicism, a skewed view of suicide, an ambivalent treatment of vigilantism, some violence with brief gore, numerous profanities, at least one milder oath, pervasive rough and frequent crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

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