(Photo: Merrick Morton/Fox Searchlight)

Martin McDonagh’s latest film, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, is currently nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actress, and two nods for Best Supporting Actor (for Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell). That critical adulation hasn’t stopped the film, about a woman (Frances McDormand) seeking justice for her murdered daughter, from also garnering its fair share of controversy and backlash, though, as critics angrily moved to social media to protest the film’s recent Golden Globes wins. Now, McDonagh has responded to the uproar against the movie, placing much of it at the feet of its treatment of Rockwell’s character, police officer Jason Dixon.

Rockwell won one of those aforementioned Golden Globes for his performance as Dixon, a racist and moronic cop who the film sometimes treats with an empathy bordering on redemptive. McDonagh waded in to the controversy around the character today, challenging the idea that the film presents him as noble, and telling Entertainment Weekly, “ I don’t think his character is redeemed at all—he starts off as a racist jerk. 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.” 

McDonagh called his film “deliberately messy and difficult,” saying, “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.” He also said that he hopes that the movie’s detractors understand that “our hearts are totally in the right place,” and that the film was intended to address problems for which no easy answers exist.