BUFFALO SOLDIERS takes place in 1989, just before the fall of the Berlin Wall. U.S. soldiers are stationed in Stuttgart, West Germany at the Theodore Roosevelt Army Base, readying the world for peace and safety. On the inside, however, things are not what they seem. Specialist Ray Elwood (Joaquin Phoenix) of the 317th Supply Battalion is quietly concocting a very illegal way to turn his boredom into profit. Ellwood is turning his military duties into an intricate network of black market deals. During the day, he is a battalion secretary to the inept but kind Commander Wallace Berman (Ed Harris), but on the side, he sells the locals stolen Mop N’ Glo and cooks heroin for the base’s ruthless head of Military Police, Sgt. Saad. Berman’s wife (Elizabeth McGovern) adds suspicion to her already full plate of jealousy and control, which threatens the whole drug operation, but Elwood is confident he can outsmart the couple and the system.
When a top sergeant (Scott Glenn) arrives to clean up the base, Ellwood is not only certain he can handle the new guy, but he insinuates himself into the life and heart of the Sergeant’s rebellious, bitter daughter (Anna Paquin). The deal gets trickier, however, when he’s invited to play middleman in a bigger league involving $5 million in stolen arms. To make matters worse for Elwood, Anna finds out that her father has plans to murder her new boyfriend. Now, in a time of supposed peace and new world order, Elwood must combat insane jealousy, a murder plot, and a possible Judas from among his own ranks.
BUFFALO SOLDIERS premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2001, but apparently the release date has been pushed back several times due to the fact that American troops are involved in the Middle East right now, and most war satires are typically not welcome during such times. Right on! The movie has a peace sign on its poster, and its content is certainly caustic and anti-American. It leaves a dark, nasty taste in the mouth about the integrity of our troops during wartime. One ex-soldier in Germany before the fall of the Berlin wall wrote the distributor to complain that the movie wrongly portrays the soldiers as idiots and druggies, strange and psychotic. In reality, he says, though there were pockets of crime, rebellion and drugs, it was a very small percentage, typical of any overseas stations, and the Army of the 1980s was typically educated men professionally doing their jobs.
Overall, the movie is full of violence, sex, drugs, and a depressing outlook. Moral, patriotic audiences will likely avoid this movie, despite the fact that it has a star-studded cast who all give full performances. There are no redemptive elements in the movie.
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SUMMARY: In BUFFALO SOLDIERS, a criminal subculture operates among U.S. soldiers stationed in West Germany just before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and a network of greed, murder and betrayal threaten to hinder one soldier’s big crime plans. With excessive violence and language, as well as sexual portrayals and strong anti-American tones, moral audiences will likely avoid BUFFALO SOLDIERS.
(PaPa, APAPAP, Ro, LLL, VVV, SS, NN, AA, DDD, MM) Dark, bitter, pagan worldview with caustic, exaggerated, anti-American portrait of criminally-minded, licentious U.S. soldiers in Germany with no redemption of their cause at the end, as well as a romantic theme with emotion-based, relative decision-making throughout; strong language with about 140 obscenities, mostly strong, plus numerous profanities; strong violence with one-on-one fist-fighting, beatings, torture, etc.; sexual encounters implied and shown slightly veiled; some slightly veiled full female nudity; numerous depictions of alcohol; numerous depictions of drug use, abuse, and manufacture; and, racism.