The Ballad of Buster Scruggs ★★★½

All six segments are about Death; it's the climax of the first five, with four of six specifically involving gun violence, either implicitly or shown on-screen. While the Coens are unlikely to lay their political cards on the table, many of these deaths wouldn’t be possible without guns, esp. a particularly devastating suicide; NB copious research about e.g. how ready access has increased the US firearms suicide rate to eight times that of other high-income OECD countries, which is a fussily-defined metric but the general point is pretty hard to deny unless deliberately attempting to do so. Westerns need guns, to be sure, but you’d have to be trying hard not to notice this insistent throughline. (NRA pedants will be sure to note that the “All Gold Canyon” segment doesn’t necessarily need to involve guns, and that a knife would have done just as well, and are we going to ban cars while we’re at it, har har; kindly shove it, your stale rebuttals and rhetorical misdirections are well-known.) The sixth, final and most explicitly thematics-baring segment is about a traveling pair of men, bounty hunters, who distract their prey with “stories” before killing them, and if that’s not as clear a metaphor for how the Coen Bros. unfold their increasingly rigid worldview, distracting themselves and us on the remorseless path to the grave, I don’t know how they could be any more explicit without turning totally artless. None of that explains what makes this such a fun, satisfying and (yes) consistent movie, but it’s definitely a movie.