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Movie Review: “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” is brilliantly dark

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Movie Review: “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” is brilliantly dark

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Megan Friend, contributing writer

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With the holidays fast approaching, it’s tempting to be drawn into Netflix’s wide array of original Christmas movies. Full of magic, love and Yuletide cheer, most would say that movies like “A Christmas Prince,” “A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding” or “The Holiday Calendar” are the perfect movies to watch as the days get colder and the bright Christmas lights aggressively swallow up your neighborhood.

However, if you are more interested in sitting down this holiday season, making some hot chocolate and snuggling up to a completely unrelated movie with strong violence, extremely dark humor and singing cowboys who fly, Netflix has a charming option for you in “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.”

On paper, this movie stands out in Netlfix’s lineup for a number of reasons. Not only does it feature many A-list actors, but it was written and directed by the famed Coen Brothers, the team behind such classics as “The Big Lebowski,” “Fargo” and “No Country for Old Men.” It is also not your typical straightforward two-hour film. Rather, it’s a six-part western anthology.

In other words, like the crazy Western frontier stories it tells, “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” is one wild and unpredictable adventure to watch. It will hook you in with its initial hilarious story, swerve through outlandish characters and ambiguous endings with ease and leave you on the edge of your seat wondering what the next short could possibly bring. It will make you laugh, it will shock you and it will completely and utterly dumbfound you at points, but you will never experience a moment of boredom throughout.

Be warned – this is not a movie where every story connects neatly, where all of the characters eventually meet each other or where everything suddenly makes sense in the final chapter. Aside from all being set in the wild West and all co-existing in the film’s world as different chapters within a large book, the six parts of the anthology are all entirely independent.

With each portion being completely unique, it’s impossible to love each piece equally, and you will probably find certain chapters a bit more enjoyable and entertaining than others. But there’s a certain novelty in blindly traveling through each new shootout and wagon ride, figuring out what exactly is going on and getting to pick your personal favorite story when the credits roll. Likewise, since watching a collection of short chapters is not the norm, the crazy variety of the “The Ballad of Scruggs” will keep you fully engaged from beginning to end.

So, maybe instead of watching “Elf” for the 516th time in your life this December, try something new this time around and give “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” a shot. Gather your loved ones, go in without expectations and navigate the twists, turns and cliff dives of the “Ballad of Buster Scruggs” together. Will Ferrell will still be right where you left him, randomly breaking into song in his tights, when you’re done.

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Movie Review: “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” is brilliantly dark