The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (a review)

Mrs. Hatboy and I sat down to watch this little series of semi-interconnected mini-movies on Netflix over the past couple of nights, and … well, what a strange and compelling set of stories it was.


Right from the start, this was WTFery of the highest calibre.

I was baffled. I didn’t know what I was seeing and hearing, but dang if I didn’t like it. All of the stories were marvellously shot, very scenic and painstakingly framed, a genuine masterclass … and the plots and dialogue were simply surreal. Violent, shocking, confronting, and brutal, this was a classic Western with the darkness turned up to eleven, and then all the other colours turned up to twelve just to keep it fun. And it … was really quite thought-provoking. I’m sitting here, still trying to figure out what the heck was going on in half of the stories. So what else is new, right?


“First time?” Heh.

By the time we got about halfway through, we were just about used to the format. The interesting framing of illustrated colour plate and storybook, and the ending of the film-segment to match, was very clever. And the shockingly abrupt onset of violence was at once startling and very, very funny.


Or in Liam Neeson’s case, absolutely expected and yet wow Jesus fucking Christ that was dark.

Best dialogue, I would have to award to the final segment although the very first also had some wonderful lines. And there were some excellent performances by some very well-known actors, and some equally great performances by (to me at least) unknowns.


Yep, no idea what was happening here, except Mrs. Hatboy and I decided that they were definitely dead all along or something. And the authentic frontier gibberish spoken by the trapper was superb.

Also there was a bunch of deeper shit going on, of course, some of which I spotted and some I didn’t. Always more going on beneath the surface, I like that – particularly in a Western setting, for some reason. Maybe because of the Dark Tower stories.


And oh my fucking God, that was Dudley Dursley?

Worth a watch, I think, but not exactly light-and-fun evening viewing. Depending on your definition of either. I’ll award The Ballad of Buster Scruggs a wagon, a tumbleweed, three mesas and two hundred head o’ cattle out of a possible Cowboy Heaven.

About Hatboy

I’m not often driven to introspection or reflection, but the question does come up sometimes. The big question. So big, there’s just no containing it within the puny boundaries of a single set of punctuationary bookends. Who are these mysterious and unsung heroes of obscurity and shadow? What is their origin story? Do they have a prequel trilogy? What are their secret identities? What are their public identities, for that matter? What are their powers? Their abilities? Their haunted pasts and troubled futures? Their modus operandi? Where do they live anyway, and when? What do they do for a living? Do they really have these fantastical adventures, or is it a dazzlingly intellectual and overwrought metaphor? Or is it perhaps a smug and post-modern sort of metaphor? Is it a plain stupid metaphor, hedged around with thick wads of plausible deniability, a soap bubble of illusory plot dependent upon readers who don’t dare question it for fear of looking foolish? A flight of fancy, having dozed off in front of the television during an episode of something suitably spaceship-oriented? Do they have a quest, a handler, a mission statement, a department-level development objective in five stages? I am Hatboy.
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2 Responses to The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (a review)

  1. aaronthepatriot says:

    I’m definitely far, far more likely to watch this one than any of the F’n Furious ones.

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