The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – review

If the entire film had proceeded as the Dick Van Dyke Chim Marty Robbins Chiminey Western of its first anthology, I would have proceeded to smash the screen I was watching it on. Thankfully, that proved to be the most annoying part of it. What followed were a series of sweet but increasingly doomed vignettes, and once the memory of the opener had faded, I was slowly sucked into its faintly fantastical but violently real frontier vision – by the end I felt completely won over. Yet when I looked back at them, these six fragments seemed underwhelming – individually only one of them convinced me totally, one was a dud, one a set-up for a great punchline, while the rest spun their tales, sometimes funny, often sad. For once, however, the whole exceeds the sum of its parts. Though initially appearing scattershot and inconsequential – unlike the vacuous pornographic violence of Quentin Tarantino it resembles at face-value, Buster‘s murderous chaos is rendered meaningful by the heart imbued in its characters – its sting in the tail fairy tales building off of each other, revealing their shared secrets of a capricious world. Not scattershot, but calculated. The Brothers Grimm go out West.


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