The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

the-ballad-buster-scruggs-netflix-posterDirector: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Western

Runtime: 132 Minutes

Main Cast: Tim Blake Nelson, James Franco, Liam Neeson, Tom Waits, Zoe Kazan, Tyne Daly, Brendan Gleeson, Jonjo O’Neill, Willie Watson, Clancy Brown, David Krumholtz

Plot: An anthology movie comprised of six different stories, each dealing with a different aspect of life in the Old West.

My Thoughts: Despite it being a Netflix release, I was so excited to see The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. I’ve never hated a Coen brothers movie (although I’ve enjoyed some more than others) and the trailer was hilarious. It’s a long-ass movie but knowing it was split into six stories eased my mind a little. I’ve always been a fidget!

The first segment with Buster Scruggs is nothing short of a masterpiece. I was laughing from start to finish. My husband was trying to play World of Warcraft and cursed me as he shut his game down thinking he had found his new all-time-favourite movie. The comedic timing, the crazy action, the musical numbers, ugh! Just perfect. And then it ended, and it dawned on me that Buster Scruggs was only a very minor part of this movie.

Maybe that revelation tainted it for me, but from there I just grew more and more bored with each of the other stories. They still had some great moments, but it felt like I was watching a whole lot of nothing before being rewarded with those short glimpses of brilliance. Each story also felt longer than the one before it, making the whole thing feel about 3 hours long.

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I think I’m probably in the minority here though, and I can absolutely see why most people loved it. I guess I was expecting the whole thing to be as crazy and funny as the first segment, and I set myself up for disappointment. One thing I will say though, the cinematography was absolutely gorgeous. I paid more attention to the landscape than what the characters were doing half the time.

Best Bit: The way Buster Scruggs killed the guy at the cards table was just epic. It was that perfect mix of shock and humour that makes you jump and laugh at the same time. Then the musical number that followed. Heck, I need to watch that segment again…and again!

Worst Bit: There’s no moment in particular, but I can’t comment on the sixth and final story at all because my brain had completely switched off by that point, and I was playing the Disney Emoji game on my phone instead, trying to unlock Darth Vader. (I got him)

Fun Trivia: The poker hand that Buster Scruggs refuses to play, two pair aces and eights, is infamously known as the “dead man’s hand” as it was reportedly the hand-drawn to Wild Bill Hickok before he was shot and killed.

My Rating: 2 and a half clever chickens who can answer simple math questions.

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The Old Man & the Gun (2018)

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Director: David Lowery

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama

Runtime: 93 Minutes

Main Cast: Robert Redford, Casey Affleck, Sissy Spacek, Danny Glover, Tom Waits, Tika Sumpter, Keith Carradine, Elisabeth Moss

Plot: The real-life story of Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford), including his amazing escape from San Quentin at the age of 70 to a long string of heists that followed. Chasing Forrest down is Detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck) who is fascinated by both Forrest and his crimes.

My Thoughts: I got to see The Old Man & the Gun over a month in advance of its December 2018 release in the UK, thanks to ODEON’s Screen Unseen. They release 4 ridiculously cryptic clues in the run-up, although it’s reasonably easy to whittle down what few movies it could be based on release dates alone. This time though, I was so convinced it was going to be Widows (2018) that I would have offered to reimburse everyone’s tickets if it wasn’t. Not only was I wrong, but it was also a movie I had never even heard about!

This, however, led to my first completely blind cinema showing which was pretty exciting. I just wish I had loved the movie more than I did. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a fascinating movie, and I can’t believe that it’s a true story. It’s just…for a movie all about bank robberies…it was kind of dull!

I’m just not the target audience for this at all. I’m sure Robert Redford fans will have an amazing time, and rightly so, he puts in an excellent performance, but it was just too quiet and understated for me. When it finished, I heard the man next to me turn to his cinema buddy and say “I really liked that. It was a nice movie.” I think he summed it up perfectly – this is a nice movie.

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Best Bit: The bemused faces on Forrest’s victims as they recount the crime, commenting on how much of a gentleman he was and how happy he looked made me chuckle every single time. That, and the ending got a laugh out of everyone in the room too.

Worst Bit: Not necessarily a bad moment but when John hands Forrest a $100 bill I couldn’t understand why. Was it the same bill that Forrest left a note for John on? It didn’t look the same. Was he simply paying him back, settling their debt? I don’t know!

Fun Trivia: In an interview he gave during the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival, Robert Redford talked about this comedic film being a good note to end on, since the actor wanted his “last acting job to be fun.”

My Rating: 2 and a half $100 bills from me. Are they blank, or do they have a note on? You tell me!

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