Buffalo Soldiers (2001)

(On DVD, July 2005) No wonder the film couldn’t find much of an audience after America’s new-found post-9/11 military crush! This dark satire of a peacetime army, set in 1989 Germany, is pretty vicious in its depiction of military personnel. Drugs, violence, incompetence: everything goes in an environment where nobody cares. Protagonist Joaquin Phoenix has a good turn as the cheerfully amoral protagonist, who will steal whatever he can get his hands upon, acting as an interface between the army and the local criminals. For maybe half an hour, Buffalo Soldiers is irresistible fun; not terribly realistic, but well-directed with a tremendous amount of energy and careful comic touches. Then it starts sliding toward drama and never stops. The story gets darker as the laughs get sparser, culminating in a finale that tries a bit too late to wrap it up in a happy finish. It doesn’t quite work: the third act is a bit of a mess, and the unevenness of tone takes away from the impact of the film. Still, there are good segments here and there, and provided you’re not over-sensitive to a bit of irreverence toward the military, it’s worth a look. The DVD includes some obvious electronic presskit making-of material.

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