In recent years, Martin McDonagh has emerged as the premier director of European-set, blackly comic crime pictures. McDonagh began as a noted playwright in his native Britain and Ireland, earning not only Laurence Olivier Awards, not only Drama Desk Awards, not only Tony nominations, but the undying respect of audiences and a devoted core fanbase. There’s a lot to like about McDonagh’s Tarantinoesque fusion of stylized violence, brutal humor, and careful moralizing, all of which turned his In Bruges into a sleeper hit (with a Best Original Screenplay Oscar nomination to top it all off) and his Seven Psychopaths into a twisty metafictional cult treasure. So when Martin McDonagh announces he’s got a new project coming down the pike, people sit up straight and listen.

And when he stokes the embers of buzz by announcing that it’ll star Game of Thrones and Pixels actor Peter Dinklage and John Hawkes (Winter‘s BoneMartha Marcy May Marlene), then it becomes an official Event on that year’s cinematic calendar. The marvelously titled Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri had already taken on an exciting ensemble prior to the announcement at /Film, including Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Abbie Cornish, and Caleb Landry Jones, but these newest additions sweeten the deal considerably. McDonagh got excellent performances from Colin Farrell, Christopher Walken, and plenty of other fine actors in his past films, so there’s no reason to believe he won’t work this star-studded cast to the best of their abilities.

The film sounds like the stuff of viral news posts: McDormand plays a mother wracked with grief about her missing daughter, and livid that the police seem more interested in harassing black folks around town rather than tracking the girl down. As an act of protest, she takes out three billboards (hey, just like in the title!) criticizing their actions and sparks a controversial debate with the local law enforcement. In an era where public trust and respect for police has, understandably, hit an all-time low, this could be a lightning-rod of a movie with the wit and skill to back it up. No release date has been named as of yet, but when it is, it’ll be one to place on the calendar.

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