Buffalo Soldiers (2001)

R   |    |  Comedy, Crime, Drama


Buffalo Soldiers (2001) Poster

A criminal subculture operates among U.S. soldiers stationed in West Germany just before the fall of the Berlin wall.

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6.8/10
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  • Gregor Jordan in Buffalo Soldiers (2001)
  • Anna Paquin and Joaquin Phoenix in Buffalo Soldiers (2001)
  • Scott Glenn at an event for Buffalo Soldiers (2001)
  • Joaquin Phoenix in Buffalo Soldiers (2001)
  • Gregor Jordan in Buffalo Soldiers (2001)
  • Anna Paquin and Joaquin Phoenix in Buffalo Soldiers (2001)

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1 May 2006 | extravaluejotter
7
| Bilko for the New Millennium
Without an enemy to fight, an army will fight itself or find its own enemies. In the tradition of "Sergeant Bilko" (the Phil Silvers TV show, not Steve Martin's ghastly remake) "Buffalo Soldiers" shows what happens when soldiers with nothing to do but wait for war begin to think for themselves and exploit the system.

In place of Bilko's poker games and lottery scams, Ray Elwood opts for black marketeering, drug dealing and gun running. However, the characters portrayed by Phil Silvers and Joaquin Phoenix respectively do have a lot in common.

The tone of "Buffalo Soldiers" is much darker than that of "Sergeant Bilko", but the film and TV series share the same absurd yet plausible vision. There are no chimpanzee conscripts like Private Harry Speakup in this movie, but there ARE characters who have clearly risen well above the level of their own incompetence. Ed Harris' Colonel Berman is a pathetic example of the uniformed, time-served bureaucrat, someone you could almost feel sorry for until you realise that one day he may have to lead men into combat.

Counterbalancing the Bilko-esquire vibe created by Elwood's wheeler-dealing is his nemesis, Scott Glenn's steely Sergeant Lee. Glenn clearly relishes his role in this movie and is very convincing as the model soldier with a true heart of darkness.

Joaquin Phoenix gives Elwood an understated charisma as he leads his troops from behind, rarely lifting the lid on the fear and frustration that simmers within him as the events he sets in motion go out of control.

To say that this film is anti-military is unfair as it contains portrayals of decent, honest and professional soldiers as well as the scammers, pimps and dopeheads that the plot focuses on. It is a film about human beings (with all their failings) in uniform, not soldiers. "Buffalo Soldiers" is anti-complacency, anti-indoctrination and anti-corruption, which is probably why its release was postponed after the September 11th terrorist outrage of 2001. In the light of recent despicable acts by a small group of US soldiers in Iraq's Abu Graib prison, this film seems eerily prescient. Without an enemy to fight in open combat, what happens to the aggression and contempt for that enemy that military training fosters?

Ignore the negative comments and give this under-rated film a chance. It was titled "Army Go Home" in Germany, where the film is set, echoing the feelings of German citizens who lived near foreign troops sent to defend them against Communism. The Beetle-crushing sequence (an absurdly comic high point of the film) is based on actual incidents involving bored, intoxicated British and American troops on manoeuvres, armed to the teeth and waiting for a war that never came.

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Did You Know?

Trivia

First Sergeant Lee (Scott Glenn) is wearing the shoulder patch of the 173rd Airborne Regiment on the right shoulder indicating combat in Vietnam. He also has Airborne and Ranger tabs. He and the other soldiers wear a unit patch for the 317th Supply Battalion that resembles the 32nd Infantry Division patch, and may have been created for the film. The actual patch for the 317th has four lightning flashes in a water container.


Quotes

Ray Elwood: Let's just say cooking smack is like preparing Thanksgiving dinner where one of the ingredients is a hand grenade.
Sgt. Saad: This shit explodes?
Ray Elwood: Kaboom.


Goofs

During the opening scene, Elwood's Mercedes carries a Karlsruhe temporary plate (KA-04xxxx) of the new European model - however, these plates weren't in use before 1995.


Crazy Credits

The end credits include the citation: 'The red cross emblem is an international symbol of neutral protection during armed conflicts, and its use is restricted by law. The purposes for which the red cross emblem is used by the characters in this film are clearly improper. The filmmakers wish to stress their support for proper use of the emblem, which has saved millions of lives throughout the world'.


Soundtracks

Ich Bin Ein Arschloch
Music by Andreas Schmidt, Marc Zimmerman, Rudi Naomi, Lyrics by Andreas Schmidt
Published by Songs United Publishing/Fab Squad Publishing, Edition El Cheapo Grande (p) 2000 Vielklang Musicproduktion GmbH
Performed by Prollhead
From the album "Neue Alte" released on Dröönland Productions EFA 07906-2

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Genres

Comedy | Crime | Drama | Thriller | War

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