The Ballad of Buster Scruggs Review

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The Ballad of Buster Scruggs Review

Griffin Snyder, Writer

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The Ballad of Buster Scruggs Review

By Griffin Snyder

*Spoilers*

The latest film by the renowned Coen Brothers, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a Netflix exclusive film that is actually a series of short stories about death in the American Wild West. None of the six stories told have any characters or themes in common besides the prevalence and nature of death. Each story examines a different perspective of life in the west from a classic gunslinger to a group of misfits travelling from town to town. To truly understand why this film is so excellent, one must go through each story individually and see how they tie together at the end.

The First Story follows Buster Scruggs, a renowned singer and outlaw. It begins by showing him enter a saloon and getting into a situation where 6 men are trying to shoot him, be he surprisingly kills all of them through equally blackly comedic methods. He then travels into town and kills another man in a more ridiculous way that might as well have been from a Tom and Jerry cartoon, but is juxtaposed by the R-rated violence of the scene. He then kills the man’s Brother by turning his back on him and using a mirror, demonstrating his ridiculous skill with a gun. But he is challenged by another man who uses Scruggs’s cockiness against him and kills him, demonstrating that there is always a bigger fish.

The second story follows an outlaw who tries to rob a bank, but is captured by a crazy teller wearing armor of pots and pans. He is then going to be hung by lawmen, but they are killed by attacking natives and he is freed by a rancher. But soon after he is captured again and hung, showing how for some, death is inescapable.

The third story follows 2 men, one who has lost both arms and both legs, who travel around the west doing dramatic readings. At the end of the story however, the older man buys a chicken that he sees that he can make more money off, so he dumps the armless and legless man into a river to die. The least memorable story about how little life means to some, but still a solid story

The fourth story follows a man searching for gold in a beautiful valley. The man digs dozens of ugly holes and eventually finds a pocket of gold, but he is shot in the back by a man waiting for the prospector to do all of the hard work. The killer stands in front of the pocket, extremely excited, and watches the man bleed out, and he jumps in but the first man was not dead and killed his attacker for the gold. This shows how people are willing to kill for any type of personal gain.

The fifth and best story follows a women as she travels on the Oregon Trail with her brother to a new life. Very early on however, the brother dies and a helper tries to force her to pay him money that she doesn’t have. The sheriff protecting the caravan decides to marry her to solve the problem, and all seems well until the is outside camp and she is attacked by Natives. The deputy defends her and gives her a gun and tells her to kill herself if they get him, and he successfully deters the attack but he is snuck up on, and although he survives the woman kills herself.

The final story takes place in a stagecoach where 5 people argue about the nature of people before realizing that 2 of the men are bounty hunters and they are brought to a creepy hotel with their fates uncertain, ending the film on an unsettling note.

The whole story is an excellent portrayal of the nature of death and its place in life and should certainly be seen.

8.75/10