Ballad of Buster Scruggs Review: The West Was A Dark Place
The Cohen Brothers' "Ballad of Buster Scruggs" is a somewhat uncomfortable look into how the Wild West really was, and it's a film that will stick with your thoughts for some time to follow.
The film is actually a collection of shorter stories. I understand that this was originally supposed to be a series, but it was later decided to put the collection together as a film. I'll do my best to not give any spoilers, but I will say there are almost no happy endings in any of the short stories. So often we have westerns where the good guy wins, or the bandits make off with the money, and the protagonists come out on top. In the Ballad of Buster Scruggs, it's more about the reality of what the west was really like. There are some surprises and twists. Some of the short stories are a little long, and the majority of the film is a slow burn. That could turn some people off, but the beauty of the collection is how it sticks with you and gets you thinking.
The characters are memorable. I expected my favorite performances would be from Liam Neeson, or James Franco. While they both do a nice job, I was drawn more to the less familiar actors who really shined. I haven't seen much of Tom Wait's acting, but he really shines in his basically one man show in a short story about an old man's search for gold.
Other performances that stood out for me were from Grainger Hines, Bill Heck, and Zoe Kazan in the "Girl Who Got Rattled." I was unfamiliar with any of these actors, but their performances left me with wanting to see more of this short story, and sad that it was over.
This movie all together was good. I'd give it 4 out of 5 stars. Initially it took me some time to appreciate it fully, and only after I had let the film marinate a while did I fully appreciate it. This is definitely one of those movies that you don't just want to have on in the background. It demands and deserves your full attention. As the film tells you, "People are so easily distracted," so let this film be a distractor to tell it's story. (You'll get what I mean.)