An Interesting But Disjointed Mix Of Shorts
The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs brings together six tales from the Wild West, mixes them into an anthology format and presents them with varying degrees of success. Say what you will about the stories themselves, there’s no denying that the cinematography and general framing of this 140 minute film is outstanding. From the evolving use of lighting to the tonal shifts between genres, this anthology does an excellent job bringing tales from the American Frontier to life.
Interestingly, the film begins in the form of a book being opened. After opening to the first page, we’re given a brief title and picture to accompany the tale before fading into each story being told. The film begins as a comedic musical for its first tale, The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs. With fourth wall breaks and numerous musical numbers, this tale tells the story of Buster Scruggs and his journey into the dark underbelly of an outlaw infested town. After this, the rest of the tales weave their way through the murky American Frontier, telling tales of betrayal and friendship, greed and redemption before ending on a somewhat anticlimactic note with The Mortal Remains, a short story that plays out closer to a character-driven play than a story.
To give too much away about the individual tales and what happens therein would be a disservice to the film but suffice to say, The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs has a story for all occasions. Seeing as this collection have taken the Coen Brothers (who have written and Directed this film) around 25 years to collate, write and eventually produce, the film does end a little anticlimactically. Some of this could be attributed to the disjointed nature of each story which fails to really tie each of these together beyond the presentation of the book itself. Despite an impressive line-up of actors and some great performances all round, The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to the quality and effort of each story.
If you’re a fan of Westerns or Anthologies in general, The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs is well worth checking out. While the quality of each story does vary considerably, the actual technicality and cinematography is top notch throughout. For those after something a little different and quirky, you’ll definitely find that here but for those after an engrossing, absorbing film you may be left wanting. Still, The Ballard Of Buster Scruggs is a charming little anthology and one of the better efforts available to watch on Netflix.