Frances McDormand excels as a mother taunting the police to uncover the truth about her daughter’s death
Life and death, heaven and hell, damnation and redemption collide in this blisteringly foul-mouthed, yet surprisingly tender, tragicomedy from British-Irish writer-director Martin McDonagh. Lacing a western-tinged tale of outlaw justice with Jacobean themes of rape, murder and revenge, McDonagh’s second American-set feature finds a grieving mother naming and shaming the lawmen who have failed to catch her daughter’s killer.
The subject is no laughing matter, but as with his 2008 debut feature, In Bruges, McDonagh’s Chaucerian ear for obscenity provokes giggles, guffaws and gasps in the most inappropriate circumstances. More importantly, he underpins the anarchic nihilism of his narrative with a heartbreaking meditation upon the toxic power of rage. When characters, struggling to make sense of all this chaos, utter platitudes such as “anger just begets greater anger” and “through love comes calm”, it seems less like a killing joke than a weirdly sincere mission statement.