Buffalo Soldiers - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Buffalo Soldiers Reviews

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October 5, 2012
Interesting, if somewhat listless, melodrama that gets weighed down by it's own seriousness. Top-notch production value, though, plus some quality photography makes a small indie look like a studio feature.
September 15, 2012
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.
September 6, 2012
Directed by Gregor Jordan (Two Hands (1999) and Ned Kelly (2003)), this is based on a book by 1993 novel by Robert O'Connor. This is an amusing black comedy which is cut from similar cloth to M*A*S*H (1970) and Catch-22 (1970), which shows what U.S. Soldiers do when there's no war to fight. It was delayed for two years, but it's a good satire showing a confused time in the world's history. It's 1989, and soldier Ray Elwood (Joaquin Phoenix) is station at an army barracks in West Germany, and he's bored. The Cold War with East Germany and the Soviets is nearly at an end, and there's no war to fight. So, he sells drugs on the black market, cooking heroin for the German Military Police. But, Elwood is posing as a model soldier, right under the nose of Colonel Berman (Ed Harris), whose wife (Elizabeth McGovern) is sleeping with Elwood. However, things take a change when Sergeant Robert E. Lee (Scott Glenn), takes command of Elwood's team, and punishes him. Things get worse when Elwood starts dating Lee's daughter Robyn (Anna Paquin), and a cache of weapons go missing. It's a good satire on war, best known for a tank going through a small German town, but it came perilously close to not being seen at all when 9/11 happened, and then producer FilmFour briefly went under. But, Phoenix has fun in the role of Elwood, and is able to keep his cool when shit happens in this barracks. Jordan should be making more films, he showed promise with this.
August 17, 2012
Un soldado condenado por el juez a cumplir servicio militar obligatorio que se las ha arreglado para hacer de à (C)ste un floreciente mercado negro, en mayor medida para matar el aburrimiento que por ambición.
August 13, 2012
bija san uvjeren da nisan ovo gleda,al svako malo ovo mi je poznato pa ono mi je poznato i 15min od kraja skuzin da san ipak gleda :D
½ July 29, 2012
Very good film, watched it when it came out, maybe not everyone's cup of tea, a bit dark in places, but there are some funny bits too
½ May 2, 2012
Fun soundtrack and an impressive cast of Joaquin Phoenix and Anna Paquin - but I lost interest in the story and its characters far too many times throughout the film...kind of a serious adaptation of Stripes and MASH.
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
½ February 25, 2012
Anna Paquin was so loveable in this movie. The target practice scene was so unique and interesting
February 19, 2012
A sexy mess. Drugs, betreyal, friendship, misery, glamour, deceit, love, death, covering, selfishness and victory. All that in one movie, which is brutal, funny, tense, nonpredictble and fresh. Movie holds the tension to the end and is realy well directed. It's a keeper in a personal movie library. Of course, you must believe in the probability of the story in the first place. But let say this way: It's not realy likehood that all this would happen in one place to one soldier. But if story makes a summary of all military bases like this one, none of the scene probably was trumped-up.
½ February 17, 2012
Joaquin was great in this. Love him in Dark Comedies.
February 8, 2012
This movie was genious!
½ February 7, 2012
Great film with the typical Gregor Jordan dark humour. Joaquin Phoenix and Ed Harris are great, providing some original and interesting characters. Maybe flawed in a few unbelievable parts(particuarly the ending), but still a cool, original film.
January 12, 2012
This is a gem of a movie. Ed Harris steals the show as the totally useless Colonel who does not notice the antics of Jaquin Pheonix. The scene with the smackheads in the tank destroying half of Germany was funny and disturbing in equal measures.
December 28, 2011
A interesting storyline that was well enough acted but nothing special.
½ December 18, 2011
Pretty good comedy-drama. Plot is a bit contrived and not entirely waterproof, but it moves along well. Darkly funny at times. Direction is solid, but not spectacular.

Joaquin Phoenix shows that he can do comedy, as well as drama. Anna Paquin is beautiful and convincing as the love interest. Solid support from Ed Harris (which you would expect), Elizabeth McGovern and Scott Glenn.
December 1, 2011
I love it! its insane!
½ September 10, 2011
It stars Anna Paquin, Joacquin Phoenix, and Ed Harris. There weren't many people who saw this movie, but it has a good sex-to-drugs ratio. There are spider-webs of intrigue.
July 30, 2011
Pretty amusing, great soundtrack, but feels a little too Police Academy.
July 28, 2011
with some funny moments.. but in general quite boring movie..
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