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Buffalo Soldiers Reviews

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Super Reviewer

April 19, 2007
A wheeler dealer based in a US army camp in Germany becomes locked in a battle of wills with his new sergeant, a Vietnam veteran determined to break him and his operation. Sgt. Bilko meets Tarantino in this blackly comic story of bored soldiers looking for ways to make a fast buck. Kind of like a cross between Jarhead and True Romance, there is the combination violence, drugs and humour that is common to post Tarantino comedy thrillers, but somehow it doesn't quite sit well with the setting of the US military. There is something a little unsettling about seeing soldiers with such a disregard for life and law (on "our side" anyway), and I found little humour in seeing them killed in various gruesome ways, accidentally or not. Otherwise, it's actually not a bad little film; Joaquin Phoenix amiably treads the line between immorality and charm, Ed Harris is as reliable as ever as the impotent base commander who is caught in the crossfire and Scott Glenn is a first rate Nazi war veteran. Not exactly a classic, but it has a quality that marks it above the average Tarantino copycat.
Anthony L

Super Reviewer

September 23, 2009
Good film, a bit like M*A*S*H in places and very entertaining!

Super Reviewer

August 24, 2007
Quite simply this is a well written, well acted and exceptionally funny film. It follows the story of a soldier in the US army as the Cold War is coming to an end, and the black market exploits that thrive when there is nothing for the soldiers to do. It is also an interesting political take on the chain of command in the military, lampooning the superior officers as incompetent fools, despite having their hearts in the right place, the film manages to successfully create sympathy for Col. Berman (Ed Harris) in that despite his general inability to do the job, he is actually well liked. It becomes increasingly clear towards the end of the film that Elwood (Joaquin Phoenix) has a lot of affection for the man.

All in all a highly successful film, and recommended for anyone who wants a well made, smartly written comedic drama.
Ross C

Super Reviewer

April 15, 2007
Essentially Air America with tanks set in West Germany, Funny satire with an enjoyable plot.
Cameron W. Johnson
Cameron W. Johnson

Super Reviewer

April 24, 2012
Wow, Joaquin Phoenix must be a great actor of musicians to play Bob Marley, mawn. Mawn-I mean, man, I don't know what's cheesier: the fact that I just said mawn after refering to Bob Marley or my stretch of a joke of relating this title to that of a Bob Marley song. This film is anything but Bob Marley, in all kinds of ways. I don't know about y'all, but when I think of a military satire that deems peace boring, I'm not likely to be thinking of what Bob Marley stood for. Well, in all fairness, I think that everyone would sooner want to connect Bob Marley to a military satire that deems peace boring than its original planned release date of [b][u]September of 2001[/b][/u], when you probably wouldn't want to make fun of peace and the military, which is certainly what the distributors thought when they had to push this movie to 2003. Good thing, too, because if they had released this in September of 2001, there would have been some definate controversy and no one would have gone to see it; and no, that's not an exaggeration, because after the performance this film really did end up doing at the box office, the only way it could do worse is if literally no one went to go see it. That is a shame that not a whole lot of people went to go this film, because, like the consensus says, it hits more marks than it misses, and yet, the fact of the matter is that the film definately missed some marks.

Right out of the gate, the film slips up a bit, not just by having an effect of Joaquin Phoenix falling through the air to give you a good idea of how weak some of the handful of visual effects are in the film, but by having Joaquin Phoenix give us backstory narration, something that I usually think is cool, though typically very conventional. Well, sure enough, while it doesn't feel as amateurly generic as other conventional narrated development segments - mostly because the other films that fall into the convention don't usually have someone as charismatic as Joaquin Phoenix narrating -, that conventional narration style is very much here, and bringing its usual bag of flaws with it. A common misstep that these kind of opening narration have is taking overlong breaks in the narration, making the dives back in rather jarring, which isn't to say that the narration is the only part of the development segment that jars, because the set-ups to the subplots and whatnot fall into place a little too conveniently and suddenly, and with no real build-up to those subplots, it's hard to determine which story is going to stick around or not, leaving the film momentarily convoluted as it dances between its could-stay-or-couldn't-stay subtplots. Still, even after the development segment, the jarring is not yet finished, with all-too sudden shifts in focus, as well as too much dwelling upon the subplot that it does focus on to make the changes more offputting, making the film's focus inconsistent, with the occasional slow spot to provide yet more sprinkles of salt in the wound. Now, the film isn't all over the place, though it is decidedly messy, with an unevenness and conventions, both in storytelling and the general story, itself. However, usual films of this type and of these flaws tend to put in less effort, rarely, if ever to the point of being dropped to a state of total mediocrity, at best, though certainly to a very improvable state. This film, on the other hand, while still quite improvable, delivers, more often than not, with wit and style, particularly when it comes to the writing.

True, the story is a conventional one, as well as one plagued by uneven focus, and yet, it remains interesting, nevertheless. The story is clever and even rather compelling, with layers that may go messily-handled at times, but remain engaging and lively, powered by intrigue, charm and, of course, plenty of sharp humor. Marrying realism with subtle, yet not overly offensive mockery, the film's broad comedic concept of military satire is down-to-earth and clever, while the humor within the humor is snappy and charming, with plenty of sharp shots that leave you chuckling, if not just plain letting a good ol' laugh out. However, come the deeper, darker aspects, the film contradicts the jar in its storytelling and organically incorporates weight and intrigue by not bearing down to hard to drown out the charm slowly, but surely, while incorporating genuine tension. That intrigue is certainly amplified by the performers, all of whom bring plenty of charisma and chemistry, though none of who are given enough dramatic material to really blow you away. However, upon the arrival of that dramatic material, the performers are competent, manipulating the human charm that they placed upon the comedic aspects to give the darker aspects human depth, with Joaquin Phoenix, as expected, standing out the most as our love-him-or-hate-him protagonist, SPC Ray Elwood. With this, and the then-previous year's "Gladiator", Joaquin Phoenix showed that he knew how to play a real dirtbag like nobody's business, and while he's certainly with nearly enough material to blow any self-respecting acting-respecter away like he did in "Gladiator", he still charms, and, come the darker aspects, even impresses dramatically, and thoroughly enough to really carry both our low-down anti-hero protagonist, as well as the film istelf, making the bad in the SPC Elwood character charmingly sting, while making the good feel comfortable and compelling in its sudden incorporation, creating a very human lead that offers further testament to Phoenix's great charisma abilities, if not his dynamic acting abilities.

Overall, the film falls into some of the typical story tropes and flaws of other films of its type, only with a little bit more unevenness in story focus than we're used to seeing, yet it ultimately triumphs in the end, powered by a story that, while conventional, charms during its clever comedic and satirical moments, as well as genuinely engages during the relatively heavier, more intriguing segments, while being made all the sharper by across-the-board charismatic performers, headed by a compelling, when not charismatic anti-heroic lead performance by Joaquin Phoenix, who stands as just one of the several key elements that help in making "Buffalo Soldiers" an entertaining and generally engaging sit.

3/5 - Good
Daniel P

Super Reviewer

November 25, 2007
"What's wrong with these monitors? They've gone all... orange!" Blackly funny film about the boredom of war - though completely different from Jarhead - with a nicely skewed performance from Joaquin Phoenix and a cast against type Ed Harris. Set in 1989 just prior to the falling of the Berlin War, Ray Elwood (Phoenix) a clerk stationed in West Germany, relieves his boredom by exploiting opportunities to steal just about anything he can get his hands on, indulging in casual sex with his outgoing commander's wife, and starting a relationship with his new CO's daughter (Anna Paquin). There's some startling special effects sequences (particularly in Elwood's recurring dream of falling to earth), very amusing lines and great performances in this pacy film. What undermines it a little is that it's sometimes just a bit in bad taste - death is particularly throwaway here - though the absence of political correctness is refreshing. In addition the opportunity to finish on a fairly spectacular note is ditched in favor of a tacked on final scene, and though the film is clever and funny there's a little bit of a feeling of 'so what' to it, though I suspect the paradox is that the pointlessness is the point.
Jonny C

Super Reviewer

February 12, 2009
Humorous tale of bored U.S soldiers stationed in Germany in the late 80's. Joaquin Phoenix is great a the slacker drug dealer, who finds his day's numbered when new sergeant arrives to spoil the party. Buffalo Soldiers has plenty of memorable moments and a great cast on top form.
Sean S

Super Reviewer

April 8, 2008
Not much to recommend here. I often find movies of this sort confuse dramatic depth for characters being scumbags. There is nothing and no one to identify with here unless you are doing time for one of the many crimes perpetrated in this movie. I guess that is what these guys are saying the Army is like going voluntarily to a prison.

Super Reviewer

August 10, 2007
What do you do when there's no war? Party...Great film. The tank scene is unbeleivable.
Haley A

Super Reviewer

July 8, 2007
Phoenix and Harris are awesome.
November 8, 2007
A underrated darker-than-night satire that generates equal parts humor and tension and benefits from a sharply-written script. Unfairly maligned during its initial release as "anti-American" due to its less-than-positive take on certain aspects of the U.S. military (the original release date for this film was just days before the 09/11 attacks; not surprisingly, it sat on the shelf for a couple of years before it finally saw the light of day in 2003), this film has thankfully found an audience but its still relatively obscure. I would stop short of calling Buffalo Soldiers brilliant but it's still very funny and, like any good dark comedy, it manages to successfully cull most of its humor from less-than-savory material (people often get killed as part of the punchline to several of the movie's gags); and towards the second half of the film when the proceedings start to morph into more of a thriller, it manages to be suspenseful without completely jettisoning the more comedic material. To put it another way, try and imagine what the results would be if M*A*S*H were re-written and directed by someone like Quentin Tarantino and that should give you a fair approximation of what to expect here. By the admission of Aussie writer-director Gregor Jordan, who adapts Robert O'Connor's novel here (which I haven't yet read as of this writing), Buffalo Soldiers was intended to be a "blackly-comic Cold War thriller" and that is exactly how it comes across. The tone is pretty cynical (a fact that is reinforced by the often dark and gritty cinematography) but there are still plenty of laughs to be had, provided your expectations are in the right place.

The acting performances are solid all around. Joaquin Phoenix, who was fresh off of an Oscar nomination (his first of two to date) for his villainous role in Gladiator back when this film was originally due for release, isn't quite the standout here that he was in the 2000 Best Picture winner (or more recently in Walk The Line for which he earned the second nomination), but he's still good enough to sell us on Ray Elwood, the somewhat duplicitous but still likable protagonist in this film. His running voice-over commentary, in particular, is laced with just the right amount of scathing commentary and self-deprecation. The more interesting performances belong to Ed Harris (who plays against type as a rather spineless commanding officer) and Scott Glenn (who plays to type as the hard-nosed new commander who comes in to clean things up around the base). Glenn, in particular, is almost frightening with the kind of intensity he radiates as Sergeant Lee. If you wanna cross this guy, you'd better do it right! On the other hand, Harris is far more laid back that were used to seeing from him but he manages to pull of his part as the milquetoast Colonel Berman quite well, which is a testament to his range as an actor. Solid support is provided by Elizabeth Govern as Berman's adulterous wife, the underrated Anna Paquin, who plays Elwood's love interest and Sergeant Lee's daughter, Gabriel Mann who plays Elwood's roommate, and finally Leon and Michael Pena, who play Elwood's partners in crime.

The film's taut pacing is also worth mentioning; at just over an hour and a half, Buffalo Soldiers doesn't come close to wearing out its welcome and it manages to sustain it's momentum for nearly all of the running time. This is not a perfect movie by any means (in particular, the movie does fall prey to some rather unfortunate and easy-to predict "twists" near the end) but overall, it's an above-average comedy-thriller that has the capacity to entertain anyone who's willing to take a chance. It definitely deserves far more attention than it has gotten over the years.
March 3, 2011
Interesting look into the dark side of the army during peace. Definitely exaggerated but entertaining none the less.
December 27, 2007
I can't think of a better movie that deserved to be in the theater! This movie was so movie theater quality. It's a crime to see that happen. Check it out, and check out cute Anna Paquin in a swimsuit too. Very engaging.
October 21, 2007
I don't like dramas too much and I don't like military films, but this movie was very well done. Great acting.
June 14, 2007
A U.S. army tank, piloted by some yayed out soldiers, crushes a VW during Octoberfest, all set to some killer hip hop. I laughed until I cam.
March 26, 2007
Fun, fun, fun till her daddy takes the Mercedes away. You'll laugh. You'll cringe. You won't be compelled to join the army.
February 21, 2007
Meant to be released near 9/11 ... very compelling biopic into military corruption. No contractors, mentioned, though.
November 30, 2006
Dark comedy and war satire at its best. Wonderfully subtle acting on the part of Ed Harris and Joaquin Pheonix.
"War is hell, but peace if fucking boring"
November 1, 2006
A really funny and dark comedy that got completely forgotten due to its unfortunate release date. (Right after 9-11, had soldiers portrayed as drug-adled criminals=certain box office death). Definitely worth checking out.
May 19, 2006
the only two questions i had for this movie are as follows:

"why the hell are we watching this?"
"haven't hawiians used mop and glow?"
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