Film-Forward Review: [BUFFALO SOLDIERS]

Reviews of Recent Independent, Foreign, & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video

Joaquin Phoenix as Ray Elwood

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Directed by: Gregor Jordan.
Produced by: Rainer Grupe & Ariane Moody.
Written by: Jordan, Eric Axel Weiss & Nora MacCoby, based on the book by Robert O'Connor.
Director of Photography: Oliver Stapleton.
Edited by: Lee Smith.
Music by: David Holmes.
Released by: Miramax.
Country of Origin: UK/USA/Germany. 95 min. Rated: R.
With: Joaquin Phoenix, Ed Harris, Scott Glenn & Anna Paquin.

This blazingly irreverent comedy hits its machismo targets over and over again to the point of overkill. It audaciously depicts a military made up of stoned felons and high school dropouts, along with the odd psychopathic officer. Stationed at an U.S. Army base in 1989 West Germany where thereís nothing to kill but the time, Ray Elwood (Phoenix) has his fingers in many pies. The smartest man on the block, a dubious distinction, Elwood runs a black market and heroin manufacturing factory in league with his fellow soldiers and the military police until the arrival of Sergeant Robert Lee (Glenn). Glenn, in a high-energy performance, leaves no doubt of whom is more determined. In stealing the film, you canít help but root for him when he challenges Elwood, who dates Leeís daughter Robyn (Paquin) in retaliation. How much one is repelled by the antics in Buffalo Soldiers depends on how charmed you are by Elwood. In just one of many misanthropic moments, Elwood clumsily applies a tiny Band-Aid on the bloodied and bruised face of his nerdy roommate who has taken the fall for him. Smirking and manipulating, Elwood comes across as self-righteous as Alan Aldaís Hawkeye Pierce. Smug and entitled, he isnít compelling enough for a feature-length film, though waiting for him to fall off his pedestal is. Suffice to say the ending is a disappointment. Kent Turner
July 27, 2003



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