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All this asks a lot of Sam Rockwell, but he thrives here as he has seldom done before—not even in “Moon” (2009), where he had the screen to himself.His usual persona is that of the frowning goofball, at once puerile and intense, and “Three Billboards” is the first film to explore that tricky compound.
Hence, not just the rarity of Mildred’s smile but also the warring outfit—overalls and a spotted bandanna—that makes her look like a distant relation of Rambo and which she wears on most occasions, even at dinner with James (Peter Dinklage), a friend who’s done her a favor. We meet her ex, Charlie (John Hawkes), a mean and wiry type, who’s dating a much younger woman; they happen to be dining in the same restaurant as James and Mildred, and she approaches Charlie’s table with a bottle of wine, bearing it as a gift yet swinging it like a club.As played by Harrelson at his homeliest, he’s a decent man and an industrious cop, and, in this case, he’s taken some necessary steps. That’s not good enough for Mildred, whose idea of necessity goes a little further.“Pull blood from every man in the country,” she says.Passing citizens gaze in stupefaction, and so do we, and it wasn’t until the second viewing that I began to see what is fuelling Dixon’s frenzy.Sure, he’s got a grudge against Red, but there’s more; a friend of Dixon’s, the only person who spotted potential in him, has just died.