• James Rutherford

'Buffalo Soldiers': A Chaotic and Wildly Enjoyable Military Satire


Movie poster for the film Buffalo Soldiers starring Joaquin Phoenix and Ed Harris

“Buffalo Soldiers” (2001) is an intense and wildly enjoyable military satire starring Joaquin Phoenix as Ray Elwood, a U.S. Army Specialist stationed in West Germany in 1989.

Bored and unengaged by peacetime activities, Elwood immerses himself in the criminal underworld, stealing and profiteering on black market materials and cooking heroin that he sells to the corrupt military police on base.

Elwood’s world is shaken up by the arrival of a new, no-nonsense First Sergeant (Scott Glenn) and his alluring young daughter (Anna Paquin)—both of whom quickly come to see through Ellwood in dramatic and consequential ways. Phoenix is utterly superb as the deceitful yet touchingly humane Ellwood, carrying a story that evolves in intensity from darkly humorous to jarringly perilous.

Wonderfully directed and co-written by Gregor Jordan from the book by Robert O'Connor—"Buffalo Soldiers" is a resoundingly winsome dark comedy and a undeniable gem of a cinematic experience, destined for repeat viewings.

 

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