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Buffalo Soldiers (2001)

Army Go Home (2002) (Germany), Buffalo Soldiers - Army Go Home! (2003) (Germany: DVD title)

Make money not war

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 98 minutes

UK Certificate: 15


Given the current political climate, it’s hardly surprising that this movie, seen by many as questioning both the intelligence and intentions of the U.S. military, hasn’t exactly enjoyed massive popularity on the other side of the pond. The fact that it was first screened just days before 9/11 probably didn’t do much to help it’s case either. What’s more, it takes some stretch of the imagination to excuse it as satire, considering the distinct lack of any real political statement underpinning the whole thing.

What really has to be asked is, does being badly timed automatically make ‘Buffalo Soldiers’ a bad film? The answer, as far as this reviewer is concerned, has to be a resounding no. For what it’s worth, it’s not a great film either – but that’s probably beside the point.

We’re in Germany, 1989, and Ray Elwood (Joaquin Phoenix) is a street-smart drug-peddler stuck doing three years of national service as a court-enforced alternative to prison. No dealing is too dirty for him, provided he can make a quick buck – and, it would seem, he’s got his commander (Ed Harris) eating out of the palm of his hand. But he’s in for a sharp wake-up call when the hard-bitten Bob Lee (Scott Glenn) arrives on the scene as the company’s new stringent sergeant. Down and give me twenty, or there’s gonna be trouble! (That’s just one of the things he doesn’t shout in this film).

As a story, ‘Buffalo Soldiers’ is a little daft. The soldiers (and a certain sergeant, for that matter) seem able to behave however they like without even the slightest fear of disciplinary action, and the tale grows more and more far-fetched as it goes on. Thankfully, the performances are good enough that you should be just about able to put that to the back of your mind. Elwood is a nasty piece of work, but Phoenix plays him with an impressive quiet confidence. Anna Paquin, as the sergeant’s daughter, makes a convincing love interest/pawn, and looks every bit the big-time movie star she’s now becoming. And look out for Dean ‘Quantum Leap’ Stockwell, taking a break from his incessant work on the straight-to-TV circuit to play a grizzled general.

It's Got: Some nicely-placed comic relief from a constantly exasperated-looking Ed Harris.

It Needs: A bit of discipline. Is this the army or isn’t it?!

DVD Extras No extras on this edition of the DVD, though if you’re prepared to sit through the trailers at the start you’ll come across a great little animated short about democracy and how it works. DVD Extras Rating: 1/10


A bit like the joke “What’s the difference between a buffalo and a bison?”, try not to take this film too seriously. The answer, in case you’re wondering, is “You can’t wash your face in a buffalo.”