Netflix Review: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Simple Review: A fun little ditty

It certainly has become an interesting time for Netflix original movies. It wasn’t that long ago that one would avoid anything with the dreaded ” Netflix original” label on it like one avoids off-brand Oreo’s. ( its Oreo’s or its crap!) Those days appear to be long gone with Netflix getting Oscar-winning directors such as Alfonso Cuaròn, Martin Scorsese and Guillermo del Toro to use the streaming service to deliver their newest films. To my excitement, the Coen brothers delivered their special brand of unique filmmaking to Netflix by way of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, a quirky ride into the Old West. This film will challenge me, not because of the movie mind you, but I just reviewed a Western and I may have used up all of my Westerns puns! Do I shy away from a challenge? Nay, my reliable reader, I rush headlong into this particular challenge. So lets put on our ten-gallon hats, hop on that bucking bronc and chase down the review of Buster Scruggs!

From their best movies to their worst, there is one undeniable truth: you know a Coen brothers movie when you see one. They are some of the most unique filmmakers in the business and any movie they make is worth watching just to see what they are going to deliver this time. I am a fan of theirs and while I admit not everything they have done is great, it is always fun to enter into their quirky worlds. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is an anthology film set in the Old West and allows the brother Coen to indulge in their creativity. Much like their careers, this film has some brilliant moments and some not so brilliant moments, but, man, it is a beautiful film to watch! (Even on a TV) I am going to put on my white hat first and rustle up some positives for Buster Scruggs, yippee-kai-ay mother…what’s that? That’s not from a western? Well, now you are just being picky!

Buster Scruggs ( I am not typing the full title either because I am lazy or a terrible typist, you are free to choose) presents another challenge as it is an anthology so I have to decide if I will review each one individually or the film as a whole. After consulting my magic eightball, I am going to try to review this film as a whole and point out things here and there with each story but not break down each one. Savvy? Ok, ok I am getting to it geez you are so impatient! Overall, this movie is absolutely gorgeous!! I admit I am not one for being out in nature, as there are things out there that will eat your face for lunch, but, my goodness, I could change my tune after seeing this movie. The use of natural surroundings enhances every moment of this film, and the Coens take full advantage of it. Every story, except the last, completely immerses you in this environment and leaves you in awe of the natural beauty of this part of the world.

The cast is exceptional in every story which is to be expected when given a Coen brothers script to work with. Tim Blake Nelson plays the title character and is just perfect from start to finish. He chews up the Coen brothers dialogue with such ease and precision that, by the time his story ended, I was ready to claim this my favorite movie of the year. It’s not but, damn, that first segment is magic! Tom Waits stands out in the film as a prospector trying to hit the mother lode. Much of his segment is him acting by himself and he does an amazing job getting you to root for him to find the gold. Liam Neeson and Harry Melling have the most unique segment as they are not given the usual Coen brothers dialogue and tell their sad story with more visual acting than verbal, as you know I am a fan of visual storytelling so you know I dug that one. Again, the rest of the cast does a fine job, but it would be tough to mess up with such well-written dialogue. Heck, even I would look like a great actor in a Coen brothers movie!

With the Coen’s there is always a wonderful score to the film, and Buster Scruggs is no exception. The film has a beautiful score the conveys the right emotion for each segment as well as working with the songs from various characters. Yes, characters do sing throughout the movie and that is a thread that ties most of them together. Tim Blake Nelson is introduced singing a song which the Coens play with by changing the sound from different camera angles as well as different terrain. It is a fun way to let us know we are in for a unique look at the western genre, especially when the fourth wall is broken. While there is a quirkiness to the movie, there are segments that show the challenges men and women faced by moving West with harsh reality. The prospector’s segment was interesting to watch as he tries to find the main gold vein hidden in the terrain. It was mixing these segments in that brought more to this Western than one would expect and kept interest throughout. (with one exception)

You need someone to point out the negatives in this movie? Well, I’m your huckleberry. You called down the thunder, well now you got it so let’s start a reckoning on Buster Scruggs. (F’n Tombstone! Gotta love it) Surprisingly, there is very little to criticize in this one! The segment entitled ” The gal who got rattled” was easily the worst of the bunch. It is a bit of a bore and the ending kind of makes the whole story pointless. I wish they would have added more to the first two segments and either trimmed down or cut out “The girl who got rattled.” The film is over two hours and some of the segments do drag a bit, but only a bit and I only say that as this is on Netflix and you will probably be watching at home and be tempted to mess with your phone at times. DON’T DO IT!! Just watch the damn movie! My only other criticism is kind of nit-picky, but I would have loved for there to be a bit more of a connection between the stories. Maybe if Buster Scruggs was a small part of two or three of them it would have made this feel like more of a combined universe. Like I said, it is nitpicky and maybe I just loved Tim Blake Nelson so much in this I wanted to see more of him!

Well, our long, dusty ride through the West has come to an end. We made it to Fort Whatchamacallit in one piece and were entertained along the way! As for The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, I definitely recommend watching this especially with it being in Netflix. It has its ups and downs, but overall it has some fun and compelling stories to tell with great acting and beautiful scenery. If you are a Coen brothers fan this is a solid outing from them and you will not be disappointed. If you are not a fan of the Coens, what the hell is your problem, weirdo? Born without a sense of humor and fun? Well, then you probably hated this review! Oh who am I kidding, you loved this review as every sentence is pure brilliance.  Do you agree with my take on Buster Scruggs? Disagree? Let me know in the comments. And please like, follow and share my insanity so it can spread to the masses!

As always, thanks for your time!

The Movie Psycho

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