Coen Brothers’ ‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’

Good Ol’ Yet New-Fangled Magic

Tim Blake Nelson as Buster Scruggs

Netflix

Tim Blake Nelson as Buster Scruggs

Part of the charm of the almost mythic Coen Brothers cinematic “brand” involves tending a signature style, even while exploring new ideas each time out. Enter The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, the brothers’ first anthology film, their best since Inside Llewyn Davis, and a Netflix-ed film in sync with the new Era of the TV Serial. The wild west is the operative turf here, from different angles: the sharp-dressed Buster Scruggs (Tim Blake Nelson), quick on the rhetoric and the draw; a wagon train love and death vignette; a strong-and-silent Gold Rush narrative (with grizzly Tom Waits), and an all-talk sequence encounter in a stagecoach. It adds up to that good ol’ yet new-fangled Coen Bros. magic, evoking Disney goes awry, and just plain wry.