Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri — 3.5 Pickles/5

A review of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

December 2, 2017

by Craig Chambers, author of F-ck You, Your Honor

I wrote this review because I went to the movies again, and everyone is raving about Three Billboards.

Without spoiling the movie, the film is a quirky dark comic drama set in a small town in Missouri where a women posts three billboards questioning why the local police have not solved her daughter’s murder. These billboards expose and incite all kinds of conflict between the main character, Mildred Hays, played by Francis McDormand, and the local police and the town. It is a very sad movie depicting very sad lives , and the way it is put together, it is entertaining.

I give the film 3.5 Pickles out of 5 because of the excellent acting. The cast is full of nitwits, and its hard to act like a nitwit so easily — unless of course, you are a nitwit.

The movie is well-written, but, as a novelist, contrary to many of the fans, I found the use the letters from the chief police, Woody Harrelson, to be contrived, and the ending left me flat.

There is one scene in the movie where the main character, Mildred Hays, is confronted by the local priest to take down the billboards. In criticizing the church and congregation for not helping find her daughter’s killer, she compares the church to the street gangs in the ’80s and claims that there are laws that if you were in a gang, and another gang member committed a bank robbery, even if you had nothing to do with the crime, and even if you did not even known about the crime, you were “culpable.”

As a lawyer, this is simply nonsense. To be charged with conspiracy to commit a crime, you must do something in the furtherance of the crime. You must commit an “overt act” indicating your agreement to participate in the crime; legally, just because you are in a gang, you are not automatically culpable for the criminal acts of other gang members without committing an overt act.

This is black-letter law, basically Criminal Law 101, and the misstatement about the elements of a conspiracy charge appear to be made-up by Hollywood to make a philosophical point about the church in the film.

Anyway, after such with a huge misinterpretation of the law,  I couldn’t really enjoy the movie.

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