Movie Review – The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs

The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs – Auteur writer / directors The Coen Brothers have returned with their latest take on American genre cinema. This time they have returned to the Old West which they last explored in 2010’s remake of “True Grit” starring Jeff Bridges. That film was a darker, revisionist take on the western theme which turned the original 1969 John Wayne version on it’s head. With Buster Scruggs, the Coen Brothers take western cinema and dissect it from multiple angles with varying degrees of success. The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs is an anthology tale of six stories that are alternately dark, twisted, humorous, sick, spiritual and outright insane. Unfortunately, the best stories are the first few in the production with the tales getting weaker as the movie goes along. That’s not to say any of them are bad. It’s just that the more energetic and fun narratives are in the first half of the film, while the more dramatic and may I say devious tales bookend the second half. Of course, as with any Coen Brothers film, the production values are intricate and exquisite. The camera work is creative and the cinematography at times is outright breathtaking. The ensemble cast is also game – actors such as Tim Blake Nelson, James Franco, Zoe Kazan, Tom Waits, Tyne Daly, Brendan Gleeson, Liam Neeson and other all do a fine job with their performances. The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs is similar to the Coen Brothers “O Brother, Where Art Thou” in style, if that film were set in the Old West and divided into six stories rather than a cohesive whole. The themes of the six different stories in Scruggs seems to be linked by ideas of fate, life, death, and destiny. All in all, another fine effort by the Coen Brothers, albeit a bit uneven. The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs is now available for viewing on Netflix.

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