Thursday, December 13, 2018

Review The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

#TheBalladOfBusterScruggs (2018): 6/10

Joel and Ethan Coen (‘Fargo’, ‘Hail, Caesar!’) present a collection of six different Western vignettes, starring a host of top talent, featuring shoot-out’s, bank robbing, and prospecting for gold; the stories reportedly being written by the Coen’s over a 25 year period.

It’s fair to say that the vignettes themselves are a bit of a mixed bag, the first couple will certainly prove a lot more entertaining to many than the last. Tim Blake Nelson (‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’, ‘Leaves Of Grass’) absolutely kills it in the titular role as the jovial Buster Scruggs for example, with a combination of talented singing, quippy dialogue, and unrivalled gunslinging. The Coen’s are guilty of showcasing their best material too early on though, with the following vignette also one of the more entertaining, starring James Franco (‘127 Hours’, ‘The Disaster Artist’) as a bank robber. It’s as you’d expect from the Coen’s, there is plenty of violence and comedy meshed together throughout.

Perhaps the most touching short story is that of the old man prospecting for gold on a plain of land completely untouched by man. Tom Waits (‘Seven Psychopaths’, ‘The Old Man & The Gun’) is superb in the role, as is the heartbreaking plot itself. Overall though, a lot will hinge on whether the material within each vignette really appeals to the viewer, with a couple of the short stories not really hitting their mark. Each story feels decidedly darker than the previous, and whilst the pacing undoubtedly slows as we reach the later pieces, the film is still an intriguing throwback to an era we tend not to see enough of anymore. The Coen Brothers deliver another finely shot, intricately detailed and well written feature with each vignette containing an underlying message.

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