The ballad of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a complicated one. The Coen brothers' new project with Netflix was originally announced as a western anthology series, but then, suddenly, Netflix revealed that—surprise!—the series isn't going to be a series after all, but a full-length feature film.
Now, finally, Netflix has released the first trailer for Buster Scruggs and, while it's hard to tell whether the thing will actually work as a film, one thing is clear—it is going to be goddamn beautiful.
The trailer is full of gorgeous frontier landscapes and shots that ride a line between the starkness of the Coens' True Grit and the fantasy elements of O Brother, like a grinning Buster Scruggs blowing a bar away dressed like Roy Rogers and Liam Neeson in some crazy bear suit. The basic conceit follows six separate stories, presumably anchored by Scruggs, played by Tim Blake Nelson of O Brother, Where Art Thou? It's also full of stars: The titular character will likely stumble his way into story lines featuring everybody from Neeson to Zoe Kazan to Tom Waits. James Franco also makes an appearance as a criminal repeatedly sentenced to death in his first major film role following his sexual misconduct allegations.
Hacking an entire season down into a two-hour film felt like an odd last-minute decision when it was announced last July, like something dreamed up in a frantic 3AM writer's room to fix a series that wasn't working. But this is the Coen brothers we're talking about, the twin brains that somehow gave birth to A Serious Man and Lebowski and Fargo, so they probably know what they're doing.
Buster Scruggs just premiered at Venice, where it won the festival's screenplay award, but early reviews have been mixed. The Wrap called it "a charming footnote in the Coens' career" and Hollywood Reporter dubbed the film "minor Coen brothers," but even a minor Coen brothers film sounds better than a major film from anybody else, so bring it on. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is out on Netflix and in select theaters November 16.
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