Review of 'The Ballad of Buster Scruggs'

“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” is an anthology of life and violence in the old west. The first story “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” features a slick, singing cowboy dressed in white with a fast gun, but, perhaps, not fast enough. “Near Algodnes” tells a story of a man caught attempting to rob a bank in the middle of nowhere…and his two deaths. Continuing the somewhat meloncholy theme, “Meal ticket” is about a travelling show that features a great orator without any limbs, but does his host have his best interest in mind? A prospector discovers gold in “All Gold Canyon” but as he struggles to trace the gold to it's source his efforts are being watched. In “Wagon Train” a lady is travelling with her brother to start a new life in Oregon. When her brother unexpectedly passes away leaving the lady without any money she starts a relationship with one of the drivers of the train. The final story “Mortal Remains” takes place on a stagecoach containing five travellers: Two bounty hunters, a rough and ready trapper, a religious woman and a foreigner. What the bounty hunters have to say will shock the group to their core.

This film is amazing looking - Slick and gorgeous with some amazing scenery and great set pieces, really conveying the feeling of what the vast plains of North America must have been like. A wagon train trundling across the prairie hoping to avoid the native Indians. A prospector stumbling across the beauty of a secluded valley. A solitary bank sitting in the middle of a dessert.

All of the six stories are engaging as are the characters. As you might expect each story has a dramatic ending that often surprises. The characters seem very real and relateable, even the singing cowboy in “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”, the most whimsical (and best) piece of the film eventually comes crashing down to earth and grounds us for the rest of the film: This is not the “old west” we have seen in cinema of the mid 20th century. This is far more real. The performances of the cast are very natural and really draw the viewer in. To be sure, there is some pretty graphic violence (and colourful language) but this has it's place adding to the texture of the film.

A compelling and intriguing film. Well worth having a look at.

Rating: “I have absolutely no complaints”

Review Date: 2019-04-09

Directed by: Ethan Coen and Joel Coen

Studio: Annapurna Pictures

Year: 2018

Length: 133 minutes

Genre: Melodrama

Other reviewed films by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen:

Other reviewed films by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen: