Currently available to stream on Netflix is the latest Coen Brothers’ dark comedy, “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”. The movie is an anthology film that consist of six different stories, each taking place in the Old West where death and mayhem can ensue at moment and with any individual. That seems to be the central theme through these six stories; death. However, the Coen Brothers, being the brilliant filmmakers they are, are able to make that central theme comedic, thrilling, somber, enthralling, romantic, or even mysterious.
The first story is about a man named Buster Scruggs, an outlaw whose choices of killing and mayhem may come back to bite him. This one is only about ten minutes long, even though this story’s title is also the film’s. We then move on to a story about a robber who constantly finds himself getting hung by the neck, a story about an entertainer on the road who uses the misfortunes of another to make money, a gold digger who finds himself in a messy situation, a romance formed from the death of a relative, and a ride in a station wagon that is anything but what it seems.
Some stories are better told than others, some more fascinating than others. “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” is not consistent enough to be all that rewatchable. However, what the Coen Brothers never fail to do is entertain. Their unique form of storytelling, dialogue, direction, and their ability to make humor out of the darkest of things are what keeps this film together and allows for an entertaining experience on that first watch.
The movie stars Tim Blake Nelson, James Franco, Stephen Root, Clancy Brown, Liam Neeson, Tom Waits, Zoe Kazan, Brendan Gleeson and many others. No actors are ever reused, so each story seems completely fresh after the previous one.
The Coen Brothers are best known for their work on their previous films “Fargo”, “The Big Lebowski”, “Inside Lewin Davis”, “A Serious Man”, and ‘No Country for Old Men”. The list does go on, but their resume is so packed, it would take up too much room here. Not all of their movies were as well done as these, but what they manage to do throughout their filmography is stimulate the mind in a philosophical sense. Their films may make you laugh (“The Big Lebowski”), disturb you (“No Country for Old Men”), or do both (“Fargo”). However what all of their films seem to do is make audiences reflect on a philosophical question that the film asks. This time, it does it six times in one film.
“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” goes up there with some of their better films. Whether it be because of the cast, the cinematography, the dialogue or the filmmakers’ brilliance, the film deserves to be seen at least once.
Rated R for some strong violence