Made as a Netflix original movie, THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS is the title of the first of six the Coen Brothers stories set in the American frontier. It is also the best of the six stories.
Written and directed by the Coen Brothers (the name that is synonymous with solid entertainment), the film is comprised of six chapters that present a different story with a different attitude from the wild frontier.
The odd thing is that instead of the best reserved for the last, the first chapter, and the title of the film is the best of the anthology. Anthology films, so popular in the past are now not so common. Each chapter lasts about 20 minutes or so, and stars a complete different cast of actors.
The first episode – The Ballad of Buster Scruggs- tells the story of a sharp-shooting songster played by an unforgettable Tim Blake Nelson. It is hilarious, unpredictable and fun from moment one. Nelson shows up as the fastest gun in the west while breaking into song and dance unexpectedly as well. Though predictable as to what will happen to him at the end, this is one chapter that one does not want to end. And to watch again and again!
The second is called “In Near Algodones’, in which a wannabe bank robber (James Franco) gets his due and then some. The bank clerk the robber has to deal with is someone totally unexpected, coming out a-shooting with his armour of pots and pans.
Meal Ticket is a gothic tale about two weary travelling performers with Liam Neeson. This is the least strong of the stories and my least favourite.
Al that glitters is definitely gold. All Gold Canyon is a story about a prospector mining for gold, with Tom Waits as the elderly prospector. The scenes of him panning the sands for grains of gold nuggets are priceless with Waits eagerly waiting to strike the mother lode. The next is a wagon trail in which a woman finds an unexpected promise of love, along with a dose of life’s cruel irony, across the prairies in the chapter entitled The Gal Who Got Rattled.
Finally, ghostly laughs haunt The Mortal Remains as a pompous Lady (Tyne Daly) rains judgment upon a motley crew of strangers undertaking a final stagecoach ride. This is the most talky of the stories and clearly shows the film deserving of the Best Screenplay Award it won at the Venice International filmFestival. The monologue by the uneducated trapper, played by Chelcie Ross in simple but and the superbly well-written prose is unforgettable.
The common thread in all the 6 movie is the unforgettable central character. Each story has one that stands out and each are performed by a famous actor trying on something completely different.
One can only wish for more of these priceless uniquely Coen Brothers stamped stories.