Buffalo Soldiers

2001

Buffalo Soldiers

Critics Consensus

Overall, this caustic comedy hits more of its targets than it misses.

73%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 115

72%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 15,663
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Movie Info

It's 1989. The Berlin Wall is about to fall; but outside of Stuttgart, West Germany, at the Theodore Roosevelt Army Base, Specialist Ray Elwood of the 317th Supply Battalion is about to find his own cold war turn white hot. Elwood's a loveable rogue, a conscript who's managed to turn his military servitude into a blossoming network of black market deals--more out of boredom than ambition. Officially, Elwood has a day job, as battalion secretary to the inept--but caring--Commander Wallace Berman. On the side, he does everything from selling stolen Mop'N'Glo, to cooking heroin for the base's ruthless head of Military Police, Sgt. Saad. When a new top sergeant arrives, with the avowed intention of cleaning up the base, Elwood thinks the new blood is nothing he can't handle. But that was before he factored in the $5 million in stolen arms that just landed in his lap, Berman's jealous wife, an insane Turkish drug dealer, and the resulting lust, betrayal and murder.

Cast

Joaquin Phoenix
as Ray Elwood
Ed Harris
as Col. Berman
Scott Glenn
as Sgt. Robert Lee
Anna Paquin
as Robyn Lee
Elizabeth McGovern
as Mrs. Berman
Leon
as Stoney
Dean Stockwell
as Gen. Lancaster
Brian Delate
as Colonel Marshall
Amani Gethers
as Kirschfield
Tom Ellis
as Squash
Idris Elba
as Kimborough
Kimo Wills
as Walters
Enoch Frost
as Johnnie
Jimmie Ray Weeks
as Colonel Armstrong
Alexis Rodney
as Parsons McCovey
Tom George
as Nerdy Young Soldier
Lars Rudolph
as Courier
Derek Lea
as Truck Driver 1
Mark Newman
as Truck Driver 2
David Crow
as Private
Jason Rayford
as Young Soldier
Gary Washington
as Sergeant Saad's Man
James Battles
as Sergeant Saad's Man
Leon Deavers
as Sergeant Saad's Man
Gerald Jacy
as Sergeant Saad's Man
Michael Johnson
as Sergeant Saad's Man
John Ryan Lovett
as Sergeant Saad's Man
Antonio Ruffin
as Sergeant Saad's Man
Glenn Stephens
as Sergeant Saad's Man
Terrence Packer
as Sergeant Saad's Man
View All

Critic Reviews for Buffalo Soldiers

All Critics (115) | Top Critics (37) | Fresh (84) | Rotten (31)

  • Eventually, the movie's rampant nihilism catches up with it.

    Nov 13, 2003 | Full Review…
  • The characters, if not sympathetic, are at least interesting and brought to life with authenticity by the talented cast.

    Oct 9, 2003 | Rating: 4/5
  • It's a well-done satire that only the thinnest of skins would find insulting.

    Sep 18, 2003 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • Like its bored soldiers, this movie seems to play with volatile substances with not nearly enough respect for their meaning.

    Sep 12, 2003 | Rating: 2.5/4
  • It's mostly a lurching, clumsy affair, a very poor man's Catch-22.

    Sep 5, 2003 | Rating: D

    Tom Long

    Detroit News
    Top Critic
  • If you can get past the idea that Buffalo Soldiers ... has any real relevance, you are likely to enjoy its sitcom snap and the performance of Phoenix.

    Sep 5, 2003 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Buffalo Soldiers

  • Apr 05, 2015
    Maybe I'm the only one, but I found the satire in this film, while decent enough, to be a little outdated. This film was scheduled for released in 2001, but was delayed due the 9/11 attacks, before seeing release in 2003. Apparently, and this has carried all through to 2015, in some people's minds, saying anything negative about the military makes you an unpatriotic commie bastard. The military is above criticism and reproach. As if they were to be worshiped as gods instead of treated as, just exactly what they are, human beings who make mistakes. I can see that being the only reason this was delayed. And the funny thing is that the satire, while criticizing U.S foreign policy, isn't as particularly biting or edgy as the film believes itself to be. Dr. Strangelove, a film that is FIFTY-ONE years old, still comes across as more relevant and biting than this movie does. I don't know what it is, but it just doesn't work as well as it pretends it does. I still think the movie is good enough. It is well-written and the characters, while not particularly likable, are certainly interesting. Sometimes the most unlikable of characters make the most interesting. If you don't believe that then you clearly have never seen Arrested Development. I just found the entire film to be clumsily structured. I just think the story covers too many elements and characters that don't really come together in an overly cohesive fashion. It's not even that funny, in my honest opinion. The only thing I honestly enjoyed about the entire movie would be some of the character progression. Everything else left a lot to be desired. Maybe I was just in a crummy mood and I couldn't see the forest for the trees, so to speak. But I honestly didn't think this movie was that good. It tries and everything, but it just falls short of the mark. I would say that this is average at best and it's probably gonna be a bigger hit with others than it was with me, so there's that. Watch at your own risk I guess.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer
  • Apr 24, 2012
    Wow, Joaquin Phoenix must be a great actor of musicians to play Bob Marley, mawn. Mawn-I mean, man, I don't know what's cheesier: the fact that I just said mawn after refering to Bob Marley or my stretch of a joke of relating this title to that of a Bob Marley song. This film is anything but Bob Marley, in all kinds of ways. I don't know about y'all, but when I think of a military satire that deems peace boring, I'm not likely to be thinking of what Bob Marley stood for. Well, in all fairness, I think that everyone would sooner want to connect Bob Marley to a military satire that deems peace boring than its original planned release date of [b][u]September of 2001[/b][/u], when you probably wouldn't want to make fun of peace and the military, which is certainly what the distributors thought when they had to push this movie to 2003. Good thing, too, because if they had released this in September of 2001, there would have been some definate controversy and no one would have gone to see it; and no, that's not an exaggeration, because after the performance this film really did end up doing at the box office, the only way it could do worse is if literally no one went to go see it. That is a shame that not a whole lot of people went to go this film, because, like the consensus says, it hits more marks than it misses, and yet, the fact of the matter is that the film definately missed some marks. Right out of the gate, the film slips up a bit, not just by having an effect of Joaquin Phoenix falling through the air to give you a good idea of how weak some of the handful of visual effects are in the film, but by having Joaquin Phoenix give us backstory narration, something that I usually think is cool, though typically very conventional. Well, sure enough, while it doesn't feel as amateurly generic as other conventional narrated development segments - mostly because the other films that fall into the convention don't usually have someone as charismatic as Joaquin Phoenix narrating -, that conventional narration style is very much here, and bringing its usual bag of flaws with it. A common misstep that these kind of opening narration have is taking overlong breaks in the narration, making the dives back in rather jarring, which isn't to say that the narration is the only part of the development segment that jars, because the set-ups to the subplots and whatnot fall into place a little too conveniently and suddenly, and with no real build-up to those subplots, it's hard to determine which story is going to stick around or not, leaving the film momentarily convoluted as it dances between its could-stay-or-couldn't-stay subtplots. Still, even after the development segment, the jarring is not yet finished, with all-too sudden shifts in focus, as well as too much dwelling upon the subplot that it does focus on to make the changes more offputting, making the film's focus inconsistent, with the occasional slow spot to provide yet more sprinkles of salt in the wound. Now, the film isn't all over the place, though it is decidedly messy, with an unevenness and conventions, both in storytelling and the general story, itself. However, usual films of this type and of these flaws tend to put in less effort, rarely, if ever to the point of being dropped to a state of total mediocrity, at best, though certainly to a very improvable state. This film, on the other hand, while still quite improvable, delivers, more often than not, with wit and style, particularly when it comes to the writing. True, the story is a conventional one, as well as one plagued by uneven focus, and yet, it remains interesting, nevertheless. The story is clever and even rather compelling, with layers that may go messily-handled at times, but remain engaging and lively, powered by intrigue, charm and, of course, plenty of sharp humor. Marrying realism with subtle, yet not overly offensive mockery, the film's broad comedic concept of military satire is down-to-earth and clever, while the humor within the humor is snappy and charming, with plenty of sharp shots that leave you chuckling, if not just plain letting a good ol' laugh out. However, come the deeper, darker aspects, the film contradicts the jar in its storytelling and organically incorporates weight and intrigue by not bearing down to hard to drown out the charm slowly, but surely, while incorporating genuine tension. That intrigue is certainly amplified by the performers, all of whom bring plenty of charisma and chemistry, though none of who are given enough dramatic material to really blow you away. However, upon the arrival of that dramatic material, the performers are competent, manipulating the human charm that they placed upon the comedic aspects to give the darker aspects human depth, with Joaquin Phoenix, as expected, standing out the most as our love-him-or-hate-him protagonist, SPC Ray Elwood. With this, and the then-previous year's "Gladiator", Joaquin Phoenix showed that he knew how to play a real dirtbag like nobody's business, and while he's certainly with nearly enough material to blow any self-respecting acting-respecter away like he did in "Gladiator", he still charms, and, come the darker aspects, even impresses dramatically, and thoroughly enough to really carry both our low-down anti-hero protagonist, as well as the film istelf, making the bad in the SPC Elwood character charmingly sting, while making the good feel comfortable and compelling in its sudden incorporation, creating a very human lead that offers further testament to Phoenix's great charisma abilities, if not his dynamic acting abilities. Overall, the film falls into some of the typical story tropes and flaws of other films of its type, only with a little bit more unevenness in story focus than we're used to seeing, yet it ultimately triumphs in the end, powered by a story that, while conventional, charms during its clever comedic and satirical moments, as well as genuinely engages during the relatively heavier, more intriguing segments, while being made all the sharper by across-the-board charismatic performers, headed by a compelling, when not charismatic anti-heroic lead performance by Joaquin Phoenix, who stands as just one of the several key elements that help in making "Buffalo Soldiers" an entertaining and generally engaging sit. 3/5 - Good
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Feb 12, 2009
    Humorous tale of bored U.S soldiers stationed in Germany in the late 80's. Joaquin Phoenix is great a the slacker drug dealer, who finds his day's numbered when new sergeant arrives to spoil the party. Buffalo Soldiers has plenty of memorable moments and a great cast on top form.
    Jonny C Super Reviewer
  • Apr 08, 2008
    Not much to recommend here. I often find movies of this sort confuse dramatic depth for characters being scumbags. There is nothing and no one to identify with here unless you are doing time for one of the many crimes perpetrated in this movie. I guess that is what these guys are saying the Army is like going voluntarily to a prison.
    Sean S Super Reviewer

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