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The Ballad of Buster Scruggs Netflix – Review

The Coen brothers are back with The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, which in a way is a return to the more expensive themes to the most famous directors/writers of modern cinema: the balance between violence and comedy, plus powerful social criticism in plots that look simple, but that have enormous depth.

And of course, in this new feature they had the opportunity to return to the Old West, one of their favorite times to set their plots on (watch here).

Here, as in all of the siblings’ filmography, they have the opportunity to showcase the talent to compose ambiences and fascinating characters, using the old American times as scenery. But for the first time in many years, it can’t be said that they have produced something that is close to being considered a masterpiece. So far, the Coen films have always seemed to be irreplaceable. With The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, despite being fun and bringing all the marks of the duo’s authorial cinema, something seems to be missing.


“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” in fact, should be a six-part series financed and produced by Netflix. In the middle of the way, the Coen decided to condense the six stories – which happened in the same environment – in a single project, interspersing the narratives and trying to give cohesion to its conclusion, uniting the ends. Perhaps, because it was planned one way and executed in another, the film has so many narrative defects.

This is absolutely uncommon in the artistic work of the Coen. They are known precisely because they have enough talent to take complicated plots and give them a deep and often unexpected finish, surprising the audience. In The Ballad of Buster Scruggs we have the interspersed stories that go on in the American West, and each tells a different storyline. In the end, we have the impression of seeing a short anthology, not a movie. This harms the end result, because ultimately, we can’t connect with the drama of any of them.

Not that they are flawed. If the Coen brothers had followed the original idea and turned those stories into a series, it would be fantastic. There would be plenty of time to develop all of it and give the tragicomic touch they both venerate. Here we have only glimpses of the sensational characters that could be. Featuring actors from the caliber of Liam Neeson, James Franco and even Tom Waits in the cast, it’s hard to miss. And everyone is excellent in their roles, each in their own way. The problem, as we can see, is structure, not lack of competence.

Still, it’s worth it.

Even with that flaw, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is still a movie worth watching. Visually stunning, with fantastic photography and editing as is characteristic of the Coen films, the feature provides some laughter – even if it’s a nervous laugh because of situations as unlikely as violent. The character Buster Scruggs from the title, for example, is played with flawless debauchery by Tim Blake Nelson: in a dirty, sloppy and seemingly abandoned world, he always comes up in a white suit, impeccably clean and with a huge smile on his face. Just the fact that this guy is amid the brutes of the Wild West is a joke. However, the character has a lot more to show.

And it would have much more if it were in a series, with a chapter of his alone, able to enchant the audience. Unfortunately, the Coen have made the wrong decision, and have turned one product that could be successful into another, which can easily be forgotten, though very well done. It’s a shame, really. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is not memorable in the Coen films, but serves as a reminder of the duo’s talent and virtuosity.

Trailer and additional information about The Ballad of Buster Scruggs Netflix

Synopsis 1: Saloon shootouts, vigilante justice, covered wagons on the trail. Saddle up for six Wild West tales, Coen brothers-style.

Synopsis 2: Ranring from absurd to profound, these Western vignettes from the Coen brothers follow the adventures of outlaws and settlers on the American frontier.

Age rating: 16;

Release year: 2018;


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