Ballad of Brutality
Something about the off-beat humour (it might better be called a sense of caustic irony) of the Coen brothers' influence in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs reeks of a very misguided idea of entertainment. I'm not seasoned enough to contrast the preceding chapters of their careers, but for sure this particular gunslinging tale misses the target. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs takes only a few minutes of your time to inform you that the deliciously photographed vistas (valleys, deserts, saloons and banks), the pleasing sight of Western caravans trailing away through the scrub, and the romance of the strange lands and the strange inhabitants thereof, are all a facade - a sort of ungraspable illusory ideal that is never truely lived out and enjoyed because this is no world of niceties, but one of blood, tragedy and lawlessness. Gunslingers heedlessly sing as they blow out the brains of their less fortunate compadres, and in every quarter of life in this Western nightmare, people are shown to be entirely consumed by nihilism, greed and selfishness. With a mind to avoid spoiling the six individually unique stories comprised in this Western, I can only say: In the Coen brothers' world, no-one lives happily ever after.
Thankfully, the film has the good taste to remain mostly aloof from matters of sexuality, and the one caution here is a scene in which it is heavily implied that a man spends a night with a prostitute. Nothing graphic is shown, as the scene cuts from around the time they begin removing their clothes, and resumes later on. Elsewhere, rape is referenced.
Language isn't a great concern. The movie contains mild curse words such as "son-of-a-bi***", "bast***", 'da**it" and according to other sources, sh** is mouthed and also said in French once.
There is plenty of tobacco and alcohol on display throughout the stories, but violence is more worrying than anything, with a large body count, and often a lot of blood. It's on this account that the R rating is really earned.
In closing, I would consider this film worthwhile, but certainly only for adults/older teenagers and then I would remind them to take it with a grain of salt. For, as aesthetically pleasing and technically sound as it may be, the dark, tragic nature of this wild world presents a miserable and hopeless existence, which we must all remember is surely not our own.