Despite its awards acclaim, the film has received somewhat of a divided reaction, with a heavy lens being placed on the treatment of Sam Rockwell’s character, Dixon; a racist police officer, the discussion centres on how the film may (or may not) redeem and empathise with his journey, and subsequently present an overly simplistic portrait of racism.
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, McDonagh explained that the controversy, “mostly comes from the idea of Sam Rockwell’s character, who’s a racist, bigoted a—hole, that his character is seemingly being redeemed, maybe.”
“I don’t think his character is redeemed at all – he starts off as a racist jerk,” he continued. “He’s the same pretty much at the end, but, by the end, he’s seen that he has to change. There is room for it, and he has, to a degree, seen the error of his ways, but in no way is he supposed to become some sort of redeemed hero of the piece.”
“It’s supposed to be a deliberately messy and difficult film. Because it’s a messy and difficult world,” he later added. “You have to kind of hold up a mirror to that a little bit and say we don’t have any kind of solution. But I think there’s a lot of hope and humanity in the film and if you look at all those issues with those things in your heart, we might move on to a more interesting place.
He also admitted that, despite deliberately writing provocative works, he is still affected by negative responses, adding: “I kind of get hurt and wonder, why doesn’t everyone love it? But I don’t like films that everyone loves. And we’re not making films for six-year-olds, we’re not making The Avengers. We’re trying to do something that’s a bit little more difficult and more thoughtful.”
All he’d have to say to the film’s detractors is: “Our hearts are totally in the right place, something like that.”
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