The Ballad of Buster Scruggs | Chicago Reader
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The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

This may be the first movie by Joel and Ethan Coen to take place in the wild west, but it still feels like a greatest hits collection. It consists of six stories, beginning with a cartoonish musical comedy that recalls Raising Arizona (1987) and O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) in its highfalutin dialogue, show-offy camera setups, and stick-figure characterizations. From there, the stories get progressively more somber and the reflections on mortality increasingly serious; the film ends up in the ruminative register of Fargo (1996) and No Country for Old Men (2007). My favorite episodes fall in the middle: the third episode (the strangest and most ambiguous) stars Liam Neeson as the tour manager of a quadriplegic stage performer, while the fourth is a relaxed soliloquy for Tom Waits, playing a lonely gold prospector. As with the Coens’ oeuvre on the whole, the various stories are unified by an impressive sense of craft and a lamentable sense of smugness. With James Franco, Zoe Kazan, and Brendan Gleeson.



  • Joel Coen
  • Ethan Coen


  • Tim Nelson
  • Willie Watson
  • David Krumholtz
  • James Franco
  • Stephen Root
  • Ralph Ineson
  • Liam Neeson
  • Harry Melling
  • Tom Waits
  • Zoe Kazan
  • Bill Heck
  • Grainger Hines
  • Tyne Daly
  • Saul Rubinek
  • Chelcie Ross
  • Brendan Gleeson
  • Jonjo O'Neill
  • Clancy Brown
  • Jefferson Mays


  • Joel Coen
  • Ethan Coen
  • Megan Ellison
  • Sue Naegle

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