Movie Review: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

By Jessica Jones, Contributor
[Netflix; 2018]
Rating: 8/10

As if we didn’t already have enough Western-inspired movies from Joel and Ethan Coen, The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs brings you six short anthologies in one feature-length film. Each 20-ish-minute-long episode takes on a different perspective of living in the wild, wild West. This style of storytelling is sure to keep the viewer on their toes and at times, on the edge of their seat. Fast-paced and full of plot twists, this is one Netflix original that’s too entertaining to pass up.

Read more: Movie Review: Colette

Narrated through a storybook, each short story has a unifying theme of death. The first one opens with sharpshooter Buster Scruggs (Tim Nelson) himself, and although we only follow him for the very beginning of the film, his quick, witty lines and husky singing voice will make the viewer feel like an outlaw themselves. The second story focuses on another outlaw who hits a streak of bad luck, this time played by James Franco. Short numbers three and four tackle more obscure stories about the West. One is about a limbless traveling performer and the other about a tree-hugging gold miner. The last two bring it back to classic Western themes: number five is about a group on the Oregon Trail, and number six introduces a few interesting characters who share life stories while traveling in a stagecoach.

The idea to create a Western mashup is brilliant. People love the general idea of Western films but can never seem to stay awake for the entire story. The Coen brothers solved that problem by giving us a masterpiece. Every story takes place in a new, beautiful setting. Prairie lands sprawling for miles, towering mountains and lush, green fields help to enhance these tales from the American frontier. The acting was beyond convincing, but who isn’t a sucker for a good Western that’s packed with plot twists? The costumes and dialect used were also accurate for the time period. The only downfall is that there isn’t enough closure for each story, but such is the life of an anthology.

Overall, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs has definitely proven itself to be one of the more successful originals to come from Netflix. Each story is open to unique interpretation and always ends with a lesson to be learned. Allowing the viewer to witness the many trials and tribulations that folks from the West often faced, this is one movie that is guaranteed to keep the viewer on their toes.

Watch the trailer here:

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