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:: Buffalo Soldiers

What seemed like a good idea one day became problematic and unthinkable the next. Executives from Miramax studios took Gregor Jordan’s second feature film Buffalo Soldiers on board the evening of September 10, 2001. The events of the next twenty-four hours were to alter the films planned release as the ensuing trauma of September 11 in the U.S and the resultant retaliation in Afghanistan made releasing a film that showed soldiers in a less than perfect and heroic light somewhat contentious.

Set in 1989 on an American Army base in West Germany as the Berlin Wall is about to fall, Buffalo Soldiers tells of the exploits of military clerk Ray Elwood (Joaquin Phoenix). Stationed on the base during peacetime with little to do Elwood is a modern day thrill seeker attempting to deal with the boredom brought on by lack of world conflict and the decline of the Cold War. Elwood’s motto is “War is hell, peace is fucking boring” so to relieve the boredom he indulges in arms dealing and perfecting the perfect con. He carves out a lucrative niche for himself on the black market made possible by his access to ordering goods and equipment for the base. His excessive ordering of products that can be re sold on the black market goes largely unnoticed by the rather naïve but likeable Colonel Berman (Ed Harris) The arrival of tough new Sergeant Robert Lee (Scott Glenn) threatens Elwood’s business ventures and he finds himself using the Sergeant’s daughter Robyn (Anna Paquin) as part of his battle to out wit the wily Sergeant

Buffalo Soldiers has some genuinely funny moments that have made the potentially treacherous journey from script to film. Some scenes within the film could have looked ridiculous and straight out of the ‘Police Academy’ films but Jordan manages to convey a genuine sense of how seriously out of control the soldiers are despite appearances of discipline and control. Similarly, the romantic subplot of lowly-ranked-army-guy-dates-highly-ranked-army-guy’s-daughter works well in demonstrating Elwood’s cunning nature and his willingness to use affairs of the heart as an act of spite against his killjoy Sergeant. As the seemingly unstoppable anti-hero, Elwood’s pathological compulsion is not dissimilar to the character of Alex in Stanley Kubrick’s ‘A Clockwork Orange’.