Review: ‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’ is a Wild West masterpiece


Screenshot of Netflix's "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs" home page. Courtesy of Netflix

Sam Lucio

The latest movie from the famed Coen brothers, “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” is a Netflix exclusive that brings you on a journey through the Wild West.

“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” is a compilation of six individual short stories set in the Wild West about a singing gunslinger, a bank robber, a traveling entertainer, a crazy elderly prospector, a wagon train on the Oregon Trail and a pair of quirky bounty hunters.

At the heart of the movie are the characters in each short story and Joel and Ethan Coen do a phenomenal job with storytelling and really make you connect with each character. Each character feels unique and no two stories are similar in tone, which helps paint a diverse world where every corner is explored.

From the happy-go-lucky signing gunslinger Buster Scruggs, played by Tim Blake Nelson, to the stoic performance of Liam Neeson in the traveling entertainer story, the charisma of James Franco as the bank robber and the loveable nature of Tom Waits as the prospector, the cast truly delivers a captivating performance.

Another highlight of “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” is the creativity. Every shot is different and leaves you guessing with its originality. For instance, in the first story, Buster Scruggs is being held at gunpoint at a poker table in a saloon. To get out of this situation, he kicks one of the wooden planks in the table causing the gunman to miss and shoot himself. This type of creativity continues throughout the movie’s short stories leaving you guessing what will happen next each time.

The use of color is also done exceptionally well. Each story, for the most part, has its own color palette. For instance, Buster Scruggs’ story is predominantly yellow while the old prospector story has a lot of green and the traveling entertainer story uses blues and greens. This attention to detail elevates “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” to a level that most other movies tend to gloss over.

There is no dull moment in “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” and the short-story setup ensures it will hold your attention and interest throughout. I strongly recommend watching this movie for anyone wanting to watch something different, fresh and exciting. “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” is one of the better movies in my recent memory and it is surely one of the best movies to watch on Netflix right now.

Rating: 9 out of 10