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With the release of Red Dead Redemption 2 earlier this month, the timing of The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs couldn't be better. I can't wait for the youtube videos recreating the scenes from the Coen Brother's new anthology Western film.
There are six stand alone stories in Buster Scruggs, each hearkening back to a fictional story book of frontier tales. The first, and most idiosyncratic, is that of Buster Scruggs himself, a gun slinging, guitar swinging, good ole boy who appears to have walked off of the set of a 1950s cereal commercial. The film describes him as a "misanthrope", and we soon discover what exactly that means through a series of hilarious, dark sequences. Not all of the stories are comedies though. The third story is cold and cruel, the fourth is picturesque and triumphant, the fifth has a bit of everything, and the six is a ghost story.
Like most Coen Brother's movies, these stories never stop at the time that would normally be conventional or appropriate. Just as you start to wonder where Buster Scruggs' tale is going, it wraps up. Just as you're starting to get into the swing of the second tale; that of one Desperado's ill-fated bank robbery, it comes to an abrupt end. Other episodes might feel to drag a little, as an inevitable consequence of you never knowing when they are going to end, or what kind of pace the tales are moving at. As long as you have a base level of tolerance for this sort of indulgence though, it's never much of a problem. Like other Coen brothers, you still have that broad cast of familiar faces, lots of beautiful vistas, sweeping orchestral music, and violent, exciting action to carry you through.
One last observation, and again this is kind of a thing with Coen Brothers, is the comparative lack of women and racial minorities in this movie. It's not so much a criticism, just a notable side-effect of the Coen brother's fondness for historically white and male scenarios (Cowboys, Gangsters, Drug dealers). After the likes of Django Unchained, Magnificent Seven, West World and Deadwood, it feels a bit old fashioned; Much like Buster Scruggs himself, the Coens have made an anthology that's a bit out of its time.
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