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Buffalo Soldier

Directed By: Gregor Jordan

Just Because People Die, It's Not Necessarily a Comedy

What happened to the black comedy? Brazil, Harold and Maude, Heathers, Welcome to the Dollhouse, and so forth; these movies all, in their own time, defined and promoted one of the sexiest genre's of film ever. A genre where it's perfectly acceptable, nay, even required, to laugh at the misfortunes of others; to revel in their petty hatreds, and sip of their marvelous inadequacies. The more real the characters are the blacker the comedy is, because, as we all soon realize, life itself is a black comedy. And that's what's really funny.

These days, most anything will pass for black comedy, so long as it bears the proper trappings. So long as the jokes are centered on human misery, and the hero has a disturbing line of work (think Grosse Point Blank… kind of funny, but definitely not black, despite what the posters said. Or worse still, think: The Whole Nine Yards). The movie is almost always more comedic than it is black, and it is an awful sit-com style of funny. And unlike a true black comedy the black and the comic are disparate. Like cheap salad dressing, the bitter, black vinegar separates and sits below the greasy, oily, cheap comedy. At some points the movie is dark, at other's its funny, but they never get tossed in together. Buffalo Soldiers suffers from this in spades. It has a very promising opening, funny and dark in perfectly equal proportions. From there, however, it falls apart and descends into two really awful movies, with disjointed plots and pointless comedic antics.

Free Williamsburg
Film Archive

2003

Garage Days
Dirty Pretty Things
Buffalo Soldiers
The Sea Is Watching
Garmento
Capturing the Friedmans
The Eye
28 Days Later
Spellbound
Cowboy Bebop

Washington Heights
Better Luck Tomorrow
Confidence
View From the Top

Laurel Canyon

Spider
Spun
Ordinary Sinner
Dark Blue
Chaos
The Quiet American
XX/YY

2002

Intacto
Empire
Max
Hell House
Good Housekeeping
Roger Dodger
Spirited Away
Punch-Drunk Love
Bowling For Columbine
Scarlet Diva
Full Frontal
Sex and Lucia
The Powerpuff Girls Movie
Read My Lips (Sur Mes Levres)
The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys
Barleby
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Human Nature
Shot in the Heart
Jim Brown: All American
Stolen Summer
Curve
Ram Dass: Fierce Grace
Storytelling


Set on an Army base in Germany during the cold war, you would think that there was ammunition-a-plenty for insightful commentary, stinging jokes, and softly placed criticisms. But the material and the opportunities are wasted for the most part.

Natalie Portman, who was the perfect jailbait in Beautiful girls and The Professional - even for us fans of Aquaman - has grown up into an almost fully formed actress, and I'm beginning to realize that I really don't like her at all. She's a great talent and all, but she keeps choosing such stupid roles, and then playing them with no heart. Look at Star Wars - I know she's supposed to be a cold heartless bitch, but can't she soften her eyes a little when she say she's in love with Annekin? Here she is tepid at best as Elwood's (Phoenix) love interest.

No wait. It's Anna Paquin… not Natalie Portman… they're so easy to mix up. Just take that last paragraph and replace The Professional with The Piano, and Star Wars with X-Men.

And then there's Glen Fitzgerald. He played the terminally ill closet fag in Series 7 and the terminally ill asshole in two episodes of Six Feet Under. In The Ice Storm he got to leave a key-party with Sigourney Weaver, in Flirting With Disaster he got to dose an FBI agent with acid, and now he's playing a junkie who gets to roll through a German town in a tank. I love this guy, he's a great actor with this sickly-hot aura about him (which is why he's always playing people about to die), but he is so out of place in this movie. Or rather his character is out of place, he's fairly prevalent in the first 20 minutes of the film, and then he's gone for the rest of it.

There's a lot of this throughout Buffalo Soldiers - pointless characters and scenes that mean nothing, further nothing and go nowhere. A lot of people die, and no one really gives two shits about it. There's a pro for you… if you're into humorous carnage and stuff. There's lots of drugs, you like drugs, don't you? All of it smacks of senselessness however; as though it was quickly realized that the movie wasn't going to quite make it, so they threw in an errant tank and piles of heroine as a last resort.

The only saving grace comes from a surprise corner. Ed Harris of all people is the shining comic gold of the movie. As the bumbling, idiotic base commander he delivers a performance that he very obviously enjoyed immensely. And that's something that is lacking in everyone else's performance.

And then there's the ending. One of the tell tale signs of a movie that has no idea what its trying to do is an ending which ties things up in a complete package. Not a nice little package like on your birthday, but some serious heavy bondage style packaging - this movie is TIED together!!!! Everything WILL make sense!!!! WE WILL HAVE A HAPPY ENDING GOD DAMMIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


The Ratings

One Ankh

If it were a little blacker then there would have been something to cheer about.

Two A's For Effort

They tried. They Certainly tried. It's just too bad they didn't know what they were trying for. The entire movie feels like a half-baked cake - delicious from the frosting side, but mushy and gross in the middle.

One-And-A-Half Hipsters

At times this is a funny movie, at other times it's a little darker than normal. If it weren't for the ending, buffalo soldiers would have scored much better; then it would have just been a failed black comedy with some interesting messages and some humorous moments. But tack on that ending and it's a failed movie all around, trite and pointless with an outcome that is only dark or twisted if you consider how utterly impossible it all is.

--B.C. Edwards
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[email protected] | July 2003 | Issue 40
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