(US - 2018)
Written and directed by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen. Cast: Tyne Daly, James Franco, Brendan Gleeson, Bill Heck, Grainger Hines, Zoe Kazan, Harry Melling, Liam Neeson, Tim Blake Nelson, Jonjo O'Neill, Chelcie Ross, Saul Rubinek, Tom Waits, Clancy Brown, Jefferson Mays, Stephen Root, Willie Watson, David Krumholtz, Ralph Ineson, Jesse Luken, Sam Dillon. (R, 133 mins)
There's a loose, shaggy dog vibe to THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS, a six-part western anthology from the Coen Bros. Erroneously reported to be a planned Netflix series retooled as a Netflix Original film, it still feels like a feature-length pilot for a potential series that could be hosted by Buster Scruggs, the protagonist of the first segment, "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs." Scruggs (Tim Blake Nelson) is a singing cowboy of the Roy Rogers/Gene Autry sort, but with a ruthless streak that's incongruous with his affable, folksy demeanor. He rides into the town of Frenchman's Gulch and crosses paths with the fearsome Çurly Joe (Clancy Brown), which starts the first in a series of showdowns. It's an amusing piece that's short enough to not overstay its welcome, and is a fine display of the kind of absurdist humor that defines the Coen Bros' funniest work. That same tone is apparent in "Near Algodones," with James Franco as an outlaw who messes with the wrong teller (Stephen Root) in a bank in the middle-of-nowhere desert town of Tucumcari, sending his day on a quick journey from bad to worse.