Buffalo Soldiers (2001)

Genres - Comedy Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Military Comedy, Satire  |   Release Date - Jul 25, 2003 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 98 min.  |   Countries - Germany, United Kingdom, United States  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Michael Hastings

A dunderheaded would-be satire of life on an American military base in Germany during the fall of the Berlin Wall, Buffalo Soldiers bends over backwards to endorse its antihero's amoral -- not to mention ridiculously unbelievable -- behavior. Weaving a convoluted tale of heroin, arms trading, murder, and sappy young love, Soldiers would like to be a Catch 22 or MASH for a new generation; instead, it plays like Less Than Zero stationed overseas. Though the script seemingly prepares Joaquin Phoenix's Pvt. Elwood character for a major comeuppance -- delivered in the form of a righteously menacing Scott Glenn -- that promise is never realized. Instead, director/co-writer Gregor Jordan contrives more and more elaborate ways for Elwood's superiors to exhibit their stupidity, or, even more preposterously, their sadism. If there's a point to be made about the unchecked apathy of young recruits, Buffalo Soldiers doesn't bother to make it; as played by the perma-smirk Phoenix, Elwood isn't even captivating in his relentless amorality. In the end, the film is as broadly, vaguely anti-authoritarian as Top Gun was broadly patriotic: both are fueled by jingoism and rhetoric, but at least the Hollywood spectacle didn't pretend to have something on its mind. Receiving its North American premiere at the 2001 Toronto Film Festival, Buffalo Soldiers suffered an understandably protracted fight for theatrical release in the wake of the September 11 tragedies.