Monday, 19 November 2018

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

This is the latest project from the Coen Brothers, in collaboration this time with the ever-growing and influential Netflix. It's available on Netflix UK right now and is certainly worth seeking out for those who like the style.

And style it has in bucketloads! It's funny, sad, gory, violent, thought-provoking and engaging. It's the tale, or I should say six tales, of life in the Wild West and feels every inch like a Western in genre. The Coen Brothers have done Westerns before of course, or at least stuff set in the hot New Mexico kind of areas of the south of the USA. No Country for Old Men springs to mind. True Grit. Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? (Where Buster himself was also seen - actor Tim Blake Nelson.) It's an increasingly popular backdrop for many a TV show like Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul, for example. The hot, baking, dusty and dry plains.

The film almost feels like it should have been a TV series as the six tales are not really related closely - or if they were, I missed it! This has been raised and no, denied. It was always going to be a film. A collection of short stories from the Wild West. At times it feels like it could have been a tightly-penned Tarantino project, there certainly being some crossover of style - particularly shamefully intricate dialog verging on monologue at times.

Buster Scruggs, the cowboy who 'sings and slings guns' starts things off and is really very funny. He sings his way through his part of the film whilst dispatching anyone who gets in his way. There feels a lot of nods to Blazing Saddles at this point as we wonder what we're in for! But things turn dark and nasty pretty soon. Lots of unexpected outcomes to stories of criminals, good decent god-fearing folk, old-timers and young naive maidens alike.

Various actors, known and unknown pop up to serve their part, then disappear. Liam Neeson amongst them in a bizarre tale of entertainment provider and ruthless manager of resources! Tom Waits, near unrecognisable as the aged prospector and an even less recognisable Tyne Daly as a fiesty old bird! There's something for everyone in these six outings and too many different actors in small parts to list. A fine collection!

The setting and production values are excellent along with the smart use of photography to assist in telling the tales with impact where needed. It's all great fun, some of the stories slower than others, some purposefully so, but all with their dark streak and surprises along the way. A Coen Brothers' romp, which it was clear they had great fun with, wrote very well and executed interestingly. Highly recommended. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs - Netflix

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