The Coen Brothers are back with their first foray into filmmaking outside the normal studio confines with which they normally choose to work. The powers at Netflix have seen fit to get behind these cinematic talents and I’m proud to report that it suits them well. Their latest project, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, is an anthology­—the Coens’ first—with various stories taking place during the heady days of the Wild West. As with most anthology films, some of the stories are stronger than others but

Saul Rubinek, Tyne Daly and Chelcie Ross in ‘Scruggs’

that’s just par for the course I suppose. What is worth mentioning and makes this a standout is that at least one of the stories contained therein can stand up to the best of the Coens’ entire filmography. For that reason alone this is a must see.    

The film opens with the strongest of the bunch, which is basically an homage to the Warner Brothers cartoons of the 50s, and involves a renowned gunslinger who never misses until he finally does. Other stories involve a chicken with a gift for picking winning numbers, a bank robber doing his best to avoid death by hanging, a prospector who’s determined to strike it rich, passengers on a traveling stagecoach being visited by the grim reaper and a romance tinged with tragedy that takes place during a wagon train pilgrimage.     

The production values are top notch and the casting is spot on. Even if it isn’t perfect it’s a must for fans of the Coens. There’s much to embrace while this ballad unfolds.      

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