Buffalo Soldiers is a uniquely terrible movie. Unique in that maybe for the first time in the history of cinema, heroin usage is not romanticized by the camera. Normally, no matter what else a character does in a film, if they shoot a little smack all of a sudden the director wants us to see some sort of depth or mojo or whatever. Here, in Gregor Jordan’s gratuitous adaptation of Robert O’Conner’s book, junkies are shown as they pretty much are: dumb. Not that this fact makes the film any better, no. Buffalo Soldiers is a straight-up bore. I only rented it because of my blind economic support of any film banned in the wake of 9/11 (Big Trouble and Collateral Damage, for example), and as with all the others I was not only disappointed, but shocked that anybody –- even sell-out, dickless, braindead studio chiefs — would think that a film like this could somehow harm the country.
The year is 1989. Because he stole a car, Ray Elwood (Phoenix) is given the choice of going to jail or joining the army. He signs up and gets stationed on a supply base in West Germany. Along with his mad car-thieving skills, Elwood also knows how to cook heroin (poignant if y’all remember how his brother River died…), which he then sells to various lowlife soldiers. In addition to the dope-cooking, he sells anything else he can on the German black market. 500 gallons of Mop & Glow, for instance. Holding court above all this ridiculousness is Colonel Berman (Harris), an inept military career man who is shocked to learn that a soldier killed during an indoor football game (the film’s opening scene and one of its half-dozen most preposterous) has heroin, speed, cocaine and estrogen in his system. Both Harris and Phoenix should be above shit roles of this nature, but what are you going to do? In Harris’s defense, he was actually quite good in most scenes, but you could tell that the director just left in what appear to be first takes. Even if they are not, the direction (and therefore the director) sucks. The whole film had a sloppy, unprofessional feel to it.
Enter “Top” (Glenn), not only the highest-ranking soldier on the base, but for some reason Elwood’s sworn nemesis. See, “Top” is the bad guy because he doesn’t like all the heroin- and arms-dealing going down on the base. Jerk. He also brings along his daughter, Robyn (Paquin), who Elwood naturally winds up fucking. This makes “Top” really, really angry (Grrr!), even though while Elwood is boning her in his illicit and hate-inspiring Mercedes 560 SEC, “Top” just watches from his bedroom window, presumably with his pants down. I really have to comment on Paquin’s performance, which is easily the worst of the new century so far. Not that the insipid script, which is practically devoid of decent dialogue, helped her any, but she just stinks. Terrible. Director-boy was really asleep on the job if he saw the dailies of her fucked-up performance and was like, “Oh yeah! That’s what I’m looking for.” Actually, I’m sure he is just incompetent. Though in fairness I must point out that Paquin has a great-looking rack that is highlighted well in an underwater scene (also the film’s most memorable). They just should not have let her talk.
The movie dully ends with Elwood and his dipshit helper-monkeys trying to cook up 40 kilos (or some absurd amount) of junk in the basement of a laundry building. “Top” has infiltrated this most pathetic of all narco-rings and is out to not only put a stop to it, but kill Elwood while he’s at it. During the six-hour heroin cook-off, Elwood takes a break to go and fuck Robyn in the pool. “Top” of course finds him and sets his mind to toss him out a window. I must point out that the opening credits of the film show Elwood falling out of an airplane and a voiceover explaining how his greatest fear is falling. “Top” is one sadistic mindreader! Predictably, just before “Top” can push Elwood out the window (but not before “Top’s” spy has leveled a gun at his boss), the heroin lab explodes and everyone dies except for Elwood and his girl. Can’t movies get banned on artistic merit, and not just perceived political subversiveness? Oh yeah, we live in reality and not the la-la land of director Jordan and his Buffalo Soldiers.