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BUFFALO SOLDIERS

It’s 1989, the Berlin Wall has just come down, and people are dancing in the streets. But elsewhere in Germany there’s a troop of G.I.’s who are totally oblivious to this triumph for democracy. That’s because they’re preoccupied with wenching, boozing, stealing and swapping weapons for drugs.

CAST: Joaquin Phoenix, Anna Paquin, Ed Harris, Scott Glenn, Dean Stockwell, Elizabeth McGovern, Gabriel Mann, Leon, Shiek Mahmud-Bey, Michael Pena, Glenn Fitzgerald

DIRECTOR: Gregor Jordan

 

"The picture is sloppy when it should be incisive, indulgent when it should be astringent, and ultimately unsure of what it is mocking and in what spirit…Mr. Phoenix, sullen and charming by turns, almost holds the whole mess together with his loose, cunning performance…‘Buffalo Soldiers,’ which should have been smooth and provocative, fights against itself every step of the way. It claims to uncover (and also means to celebrate) the anarchy that percolates within a rigidly orderedinstitution, but is itself too disorderly to make the point in a suitably interesting or infuriating manner." --A. O. Scott, The New York Times


"Though the film, adapted from a novel by Robert O'Connor, is obviously trying to reference ‘Catch-22,’ it is far too dark and violent to be funny. Case in point is a nasty sequence in which a tank crew stoned on heroin gets lost on the streets of Stuttgart, where they end up crushing a gas station and setting off an inferno that fries two fellow G.I.s. If there's something funny in any of that, I missed it…In the end, it's not the darkness of the film's politics that bothers me, it's the exploitation of violence as entertainment--and, oh, the smugness of it all." --Jack Mathews, The New York Daily News

"One would be hard-pressed to imagine a film more diametrically opposed to the uniform-worship currently in vogue. However, ‘Soldiers’ has its foundation in reality: A scene in which a handful of Germans narrowly escape their Volkswagen when it's crushed by a tank being run by stoned Americans, comes from an actual event--except that in the actual event, the Germans still were in the car. Yet ‘Buffalo Soldiers’ doesn't exist in a vacuum. If it did -- or if it had been released well before its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival the week of 9/11--we would all be able to watch it for what it is: a capable and caustic satire, even a farce, about an inept and corrupt U.S. military, peopled in large part by soldiers who chose it as an alternative to prison…It is a genuine political satire -- which has had the bad luck to appear at a time when political satire has as much chance as a Volkswagen facing a tank." --John Anderson, Newsday

"Director Gregor Jordan, who wrote the screenplay with Eric Axel Weiss and Nora MacCoby, tries to put an ironic spin on the quandary of soldiers without a cause, but because the movie doesn't have any real politics — just a few funny gags and sarcasm — the satire never jells…Even Phoenix, an actor who can make an incestuous-minded Roman emperor seem sensitive, can't smooth over political nihilism this unsavory." --Manohla Dargis, The Los Angeles Times

"As a portrait of what soldiers will do once a war is won, ‘Buffalo Soldiers’ is probably close to the mark. Time magazine recently had a cover on lootings by American soldiers in Baghdad, and almost any self-respecting foreign correspondent will tell you that a certain amount of pillage invariably follows a war. As social satire, though, the movie is a nonstarter, completely lacking in the zany lunacy of ‘M*A*S*H’ and ‘Dr. Strangelove,’ or the whacked savagery of ‘Catch-22.’" --Ella Taylor, LA Weekly

"This jaunty mish-M*A*S*H has a seductive, nonchalant glitter and an unshakably mocking attitude…the movie's smirk is so fixed it precludes laughter…‘Buffalo Soldiers’—which premiered at the 2001 Toronto Film Festival two days before September 11—has spent nearly two years on the Miramax shelf. Now perhaps, with another U.S. occupation rapidly souring, its time has come…In its post-Vietnam cynicism, ‘Buffalo Soldiers’ feels almost avant-garde." --J. Hoberman, The Village Voice

"‘Buffalo Soldiers’ is solid entertainment with an enjoyably rough-and-tumble vibe. Phoenix gives an electric performance as amoral Army supply clerk Ray Elwood…Jordan, who co-wrote the script with Eric Axel Weiss and Nora Maccoby, evokes the druggy haze of ‘Apocalypse Now’ through music and slo-mo sequences, and wrings much humor from his perpetually stoned soldiers. The violent climax is unnecessarily over the top, but Jordan generally keeps a tight rein on the parody, making for biting and irreverent fun." --Megan Lehmann, The New York Post

"Gregor Jordan’s ‘Buffalo Soldiers’ arrives with a lot of hype and little to show for it… this is low-grade satire. The shocks to the system in ‘Buffalo Soldiers’ are nothing more than cheap thrills." --Peter Rainer, New York Magazine

"…a pleasingly disreputable trifle, a picture in which scamps and scalawags come out on top, in which the true bad-asses are duly punished and in which military guys are not necessarily good or evil simply because they're military guys -- like most human beings, they're not wholly defined by their job, even if their job is (roughly speaking, at least) defending their country." --Stephanie Zacharek, Salon

"Director Gregor Jordan’s shallow treatise on army hypocrisy can’t shake the ghosts of ‘M*A*S*H’ and ‘Catch-22’…this dreary, familiar, and ultimately jumbled mess merely repeats what its more illustrious predecessors have already done, only less successful… Joaquin Phoenix has a delicious time causing havoc as the conniving and charming Elwood, but the incompetent ‘Buffalo Soldiers’ should have been left out on the range." --Nicholas Schager, Slant Magazine