Buffalo Soldiers

Directed by Gregor Jordan

> > Feb 2004

Buffalo Soldiers - Directed by Gregor Jordan
By Joshua OstroffSet at the cusp of the Cold War's end, Buffalo Soldiers fell victim to the start of the new terror era. This dark-as-night military satire debuted at the Toronto Film Festival on September 7, 2001. Needless to say, by the time it was to be screened at a theatre near you, there was no freakin' way an anti-army flick was gonna fly. Unfairly buried during the Afghan war, the film got postponed again when Iraq got bum-rushed. Last summer, an exasperated Miramax realised that Bush's wars weren't going to end and finally released the film. Naturally, it bombed, but not for lack of quality. Joaquin Phoenix, in a refreshingly un-showy role, plays military clerk Ray Elwood, the leader of a band of delinquent soldiers in 1989 West Germany during the fall of the Wall. But this is no Bill Murray-ish loveable rapscallion. The former car thief was given a choice between jail or the army and he chose wrong. To pass the time, Elwood sells heroin to his addict army buddies, deals arms (and Mop'n'Glo) to the black market, races down the autobahn in his ill-gotten Mercedes, and when faced with a surly superior officer (sort of the Lt. Harris to his Officer Mahoney, if you're a Police Academy fan) he bangs the daughter (Anna Paquin). From its hilarious drug-addled tank disaster to the explosive ending, the "unpatriotic" film chronicles an incompetent volunteer military tearing itself apart by boredom. Ironically, the black comedy has no real beef with the hot zone soldier it's the peacetime privates and their bureaucratic brethren (epitomised by Ed Harris's well-meaning mensch and Scott Glenn's patriotic psychopath) who take it in the chin. While not as cutting as, say, M*A*S*H, the film's disrespect deftly punctures many of the "army of one" myths being perpetrated nowadays. The DVD comes with another great half-hour "Anatomy of a Scene" breakdown from the Sundance Channel, a pointless five minute promo reel, and an anecdote-filled commentary that sheds some light on Australian director Gregor Jordan's cynical vision. Plus: trailers, featurettes, more. (Alliance Atlantis)
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