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Buffalo Soldiers


Buffalo Soldiers


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Buffalo Soldiers takes place during the fall of the Soviet Union and the Iron Curtain, when the dismantling of the Berlin Wall gave way to freedom, capitalism, and unprecedented opportunity, as well as greed, opportunism, and black-market profiteering. Joaquin Phoenix plays a smart-ass crook who uses his position with the Army as a convenient front for his more lucrative dealings in drugs and weapons. His criminal endeavors flourish under the clueless reign of kind-but-incompetent officer Ed Harris, but trouble arrives in the form of sadistic bad-ass Scott Glenn, who immediately recognizes Phoenix as a hustler and swoops down on him like an avenging angel. In a neat bit of symmetry, Phoenix has two love interests to complement his contrasting father figures: Anna Paquin, Glenn's rebellious daughter, and Elizabeth McGovern, Harris' bored and frustrated wife. Buffalo Soldiers begins with Phoenix in a relatively charmed position, then proceeds to knock him down a notch and raise the stakes at every turn. Crossbreeding the military hijinks of Hogan's Heroes with The Rules Of Attraction's black humor and skewed moral compass, Buffalo Soldiers unfolds with disarming speed, wit, and economy. Tightly plotted and well-acted, the film litters its brisk run time with darkly funny and haunting setpieces–most notably a climactic shootout that plays like a macabre burlesque of battle, and an early show-stopper where a tank operated by oblivious junkies runs roughshod over a festival and a gas station. Striking a discordantly cynical note amid the jingoism that swept the U.S. following the Sept. 11 attacks, Buffalo Soldiers is dominated by Harris and Glenn, who create unforgettable characters with a minimum of screen time. The former's character is written as a bit of a pompous fool, but Harris invests him with pathos and humanity that nicely offsets the film's free-swinging cynicism. Glenn, meanwhile, turns Phoenix's chief antagonist into a fire-breathing force of nature. A welcome and winning black comedy, Buffalo Soldiers takes a smart, funny, corrosive look at the way ideologies divide and fracture, while greed and self-interest remain universal.