In a year full of western related media with “The Rider” and “Westworld” Season 2, it would make sense that the Coen brothers’ “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” would be released. It’s also advantageous for Netflix to release the film just when Rockstar’s new game, “Red Dead Redemption II,” is facing the second biggest media opening of all time.
The movie doesn’t just follow one story, but it’s separated into six vignettes — all having different feels and genres within its own western aesthetic. Obviously, that means that some stories aren’t as good as the others, but all of them are enjoyable.
The stories range from bank robberies to wagon trains, prospectors to a happy-go-lucky gunslinger, and a wealthy family haunting to a grim tale of the traveling thespian. All of which are engaging.
Being a Coen brother’s film, the dialogue feels natural. The shot compositions, color correction and editing are great. And the cast’s acting, from the most well-known to the unknown, all play their parts well. The cast includes Brendan Gleeson, Liam Neeson, James Franco, Tom Waits, Tim Blake Nelson and Clancy Brown.
One issue I have with the film is the placement of the stories. The first half of the film shows four of the six stories, leaving an hour to show the other two. Also, in a film that is just over two hours long, it could have been better. I would have spaced it out with two of the shorter ones and then one of the longer ones back-to-back. That way, there’s more consistency and it would reduce the slower pace towards the latter half of the film.
“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” is certainly one of the best films of the year. It’s nothing powerful, but it’s entertaining. If you’re a fan of the Coen brothers or if you need a fix of a western movie, Netflix has you covered.
“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” gets an A- Rated R. Running time 133 minutes.
Nicholas Jennings has a bachelor’s degree in film from the University of Oregon. He runs Spirit Man Studios on YouTube and the Pendleton Film Club. Contact him via email@example.com