A poignant collection of western tales courtesy of the Cohen Brothers, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is perhaps the perhaps the most original piece of television Netflix has ever commissioned.
Taking the classic western tropes such as gunslingers, wagon trains, Native American tribes, outlaws and gnarly gold prospectors they twist the genre in a way that only those who are real fans of the original classics could do.
This is a wild west where misfortune stalks our protagonists and threatens to annihilate them and their carefully wrought plans in the blink of an arrow. Fate can take any form in this world, and your untimely end could come at the hand of a sudden illness, a stray yapping dog or even in one case, a chicken.
At one point in the final tale, a character suggests there are two types of people ‘lucky’ and unlucky and that is never truer than in the world of Buster Scruggs.
In this wide open land the lack of rules not only give you the chance to become a land baron or a gunslinging legend, but they also give you ample opportunity to be thrown in a deep hole with a bullet in your back.
‘Buster Scruggs’ achieves all this while having tales that vary tremendously in mood and tone. We start with a singing cowboy gunslinger and half-way through are given a tale of an armless, legless actor who tours the west with his drunken Northern Irish partner, it’s grimness in stark contrast two the opening tale.
Yet in spite of this, or perhaps because of it, the film succeeds brilliantly.