An unconventional movie calls for an unconventional review. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs features 6 different short films directed by the Coen Brothers set in the old west. Therefore, the best way to talk about it is to discuss each one separately.
Ballad of Buster Scruggs
In the first, and probably the best short film, a cheerful and song-singing Outlaw rides into town winning several shootouts before finally meeting his match. This one easily has the most humor and memorable moments. It more like a Coen Bothers film than any of the others, as well. It’s a parody of Westerns, while at the same time seeming to respect the genre greatly. It’s a great start to the film.
After the strong start, we get a weaker, but still pretty good, film featuring James Franco as an outlaw attempting to rob an isolated bank. Things don’t go as planned and he is sentenced to hang. He manages to escape before eventually being caught again. The humor is back in this one, with many funny moments. The film is really good for its first half, but does fade a bit at the end. James Franco gives a really good performance as well.
This was my least favorite of the films. This one sees Liam Neeson put on shows around the West that feature a man with no arms or legs. Eventually he realizes people have grown tired of this act in favor of other performers. With this in mind, he decides to move in a… different direction. While I appreciate the darkness of this story and always enjoy seeing Liam Neeson, I found it to be pretty boring. It didn’t really connect with me in any way. It definitely caused the movie as a whole to drag on just to get through this one.
All Gold Canyon
Man, even if this isn’t the most entertaining of the films, it sure is the most beautiful. This film, in which a gold prospecter searches for a big score, is set in a gorgeous river valley. It is shot really well, which is the main reason why this is one of the better films. The story also takes some interesting twists and turns that I never saw coming. I’d say this is probably my third favorite in the movie.
The Gal who Got Rattled
The Coen Brothers again play with a dark theme in this story, which sees a young woman who loses her brother while on the Oregon Trail agreeing to a proposal by another traveler who offers to help settle her debts. Before they can separate from the rest of the group to enjoy their new life together, they are attacked by a group of Native Americans. While this one stats off slow, it becomes my second favorite in the series. It is shot really well, has some great dialogue and performances, and features a great twist.
The Mortal Remains
In the final story, 5 people from different walks of life travel in a stagecoach. They eventually get to discuss what bascially comes down to the meaning of life and how different people are from one another. It’s a fascinating discussion from wildly different people, but that’s about all there is too it. In the end, it feels somewhat anti-climatic, especially to finish off the film.
Overall, I found The Ballad of Buster Scruggs to be enjoyable overall, with several of the short films to be much better than the others. If you enjoy the Coen Brothers, this will probably suit your tastes. For me, it barely slips in to Positive ROP range due to some excellent writing and direction in several of the short films.
(For those not following the YouTube Channel yet, our new rating system is, from lowest to highest- Felony, Misdemeanor, 10-4, Positive ROP, Golden Donut. But seriously, you should all subscribe to the channel.)
Follow us in all these places:
Facebook (Police Entertainment Network)
Instagram (Police Entertainment Network)
YouTube (Cops Watch Movies)