Originally designed as a series, appears with THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGS now the first film by the Coen brothers directly for the streaming platform Netflix. We’ll reveal how it turned out in our review.
The Plot Summary
“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” brings together six short stories that all have one thing in common: they take place in – in the truest sense of the word – the Wild West. There is the gunslinger Buster Scruggs (Tim Blake Nelson), who likes to ride from village to village and tell people about his misdeeds until one day that is exactly what becomes his downfall. Even a bank robber (James Franco) with more luck than sense is confronted with his actions every day and has to free himself from a more than unfortunate situation. Meanwhile, an age-weary theater man (Liam Neeson) has to consider whether he wants to fundamentally change his current program and to do so he swaps people for animals. Things are happier for a gold digger (Tom Waits) who discovers a vein of gold in an evergreen valley. Young Alice (Zoe Kazan), who, like the passengers of a stagecoach (including Brendan Gleeson), only realizes far too late what she has gotten herself into, is less lucky…
Movie explanation of the ending
Many of the films directed by the brothers Joel and Ethan Coen since 1984 have shaped the zeitgeist in their own way and some have even become cult. It’s no surprise that the two of them wanted to swap the big screen for the small screen (at least for the time being) when they tackled the six-part miniseries “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” for the streaming service Netflix. Only the buyer remains. However, the original series format has now become a film, which celebrated its premiere in August at the renowned Venice Film Festival. In addition, “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” is part of the first batch of film productions that will be released in cinemas in addition to its regular release on Netflix. This honor will also be given to Alfonso Cuaron’s Oscar hopeful “Roma”, Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” and “Bird Box” with Julia Roberts. You can stand on this decision however you like – some criticize it because it is purely based on calculation. Netflix doesn’t just want to make its users happy, but primarily hopes to get better chances at film awards. The others are just happy to be able to enjoy the film of their choice in the cinema. In the case of “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” this is particularly worthwhile, because the best thing about the almost two and a half hour western anthology is clearly the pictures. But the morbid comedy also puts you in a great mood.
Tim Blake Nelson takes on the role of gunslinger Buster Scruggs.
If Seth MacFarlane hadn’t grabbed this title four years ago, none would be as obvious for “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” as “A Million Ways to Die in the West.” However, we have only revealed a fraction of what the viewer can expect from the six short stories. The only thing they all have in common is that as many people as possible died in them and under absurd circumstances – that’s how we know the Coens from their best times. How this is all embedded narratively varies greatly from episode to episode. They are all connected by a hand turning the pages of a book, which serves as a link between the various short films. So the original plan to release “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” as a miniseries still shines through very clearly. At the same time, over time it also became clear that the decision to release a film instead of a series was absolutely the right one. The episodes are not only of completely different quality, they also only partially justify a largely identical running length. One could turn one of them into a full-length feature film, while other (already short) episodes would be over after just a few minutes. What’s particularly interesting is that the weak points of “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” tend to be concentrated in the end: the film starts strong and then steadily declines as the game progresses. With Netflix in particular, this actually encourages impatient users to cancel earlier.
Which brings us to the biggest disadvantage of the streaming giant’s exploitation of the film. Due to the quickly understandable structure of the short film, the hand turning the page of the book to the next episode, and the next short film, it is of course quite entertaining, as even with those stories that interest you less, the end is almost at the beginning is visible. But it wouldn’t be surprising if a report about the film appeared in a few weeks that “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” was the production that viewers skipped the most. Despite the fluctuating narrative quality, that would be a particular shame, because ultimately every episode, no matter how boring it is (since all short films ultimately only boil down to a single punch line, it is particularly a shame in the last two that this can be seen from afar and therefore hardly ignites) its own highlights. These can be the actors – and with Liam Neeson (“The Commuter”)James Franco (“The Disaster Artist”)Zoe Kazan (“The F-Word – Just Good Friends”)Brendan Gleeson (“Paddington 2”) and Tom Waits (“7 Psychos”), to name just a handful, “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” has quite a few to offer. But the technical presentation, various very smart, equally funny, but also some tragic observations and the Coens’ remarkable willingness to style hold the film together, despite its narrative structure, so that it is worth persevering through even the tougher moments, especially towards the end not to just fast forward for convenience. No matter how tempting it may be.
Tom Waits discovers a vein of gold in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs…
In terms of narrative, all the episodes have in common is the setting, while the tone differs fundamentally from film to film. What stands out most positively is the story about the theater man and his dubious attraction: a person without arms or legs who reads stories night after night to a paying audience who, of course, only come to see the “freak” up close. In this 25-minute episode, the Coens build up a small cosmos around their characters in a very short space of time, combining the tragedy of the situation with the comedy of the circumstances and, on top of that, sprinkling a big dose of bitter cynicism on top. Liam Neeson also embodies his character with genuine desperation and without any conscience. The final punch line hits you right in the stomach; an effect that none of the other stories achieve. These are preferably designed for a quick, albeit amusing, shock (“Did they really just dare do that?”) or an entertaining realization (“Oh, that’s what you meant to tell me!”). Those responsible can manage without lengths for a long time. Only the last two stories seem to drag on forever. However, this can mostly be compensated for by Bruno Delbonnel’s outstanding camera work (“The Darkest Hour”). The way he captures the perfect scene arrangements, to the point that every single scene in the still image would make a painting, is so breathtaking that you can’t really avoid marveling at “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” in the cinema.
Conclusion: “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” is a collection of short stories that varies in quality, but in addition to the episode with Liam Neeson, what stands out is the spectacular camera work.
“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” will be available to stream on Netflix from November 16th.