American Buffalo

1996 adaptation of a play

Rating: 14/20

Plot: A pair of guys who, with their presence, actually make a junk store seem junkier scheme to get back a buffalo nickel that they suspect ripped them off.

I'd never heard of this movie but saw it on the shelf at that same library where I grabbed the pornographic Thundercrack! . Hoffman and Franz, a play by Mamet. I figured it was worth checking out. When I looked it up, it didn't appear as if people liked it. I'm guessing that's because nothing really happens. The character start in one place, spin their wheels for a bit, and then end up in the exact same place. They're losers, and this is a movie about losers. They're enterprising losers, but they're still losers. And if this is the kind of thing that would have a thousand sequels like those Fast and the Furious movies, they would remain losers in those, too.

This is a unique heist movie because it's a heist movie without a heist. And it's a movie about a pair of friends who don't have anything that friends should have. They don't respect each other, they don't even seem to like each other, and they don't trust each other. You get a sense that the characters are together because they feel shackled to each other for some reason, like they've been thrown into this dilapidated, desolate inner-city purgatory where nobody exists except for the occasional passing cop and are forced to play poker together and spend their non-napping hours together. It's like a Waiting for Godot of heist movies, but the Godot is a lucky break or an avenue that might lead them out of the nowhere in which they reside. Hoffman's character says they're living like caveman, but they're characters resigned to that fate. They're comfortably cavemen even as they hate their existence.

I really liked these characters.

Franz is really natural as Don. The performance is the kind where it seems like you just wandered into this junk shop and woke the guy up and had him live his life. Hoffman's performance is a little more bombastic, the actor relishing in getting to say so many curse words. His character is always agitated. I like Hoffman's performance even if he is probably overdoing things a little bit. He's good at delivering these jumbled lines as if his brain is trying to keep up with his tongue though, and I like that.

I don't think think this is anything mind-blowing, but I did like it a lot more than I thought I would after reading about it a bit.

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