1989. The Berlin Wall is about to fall, and the world is about to be made safe for the new world order. But outside of Stuttgart, West Germany, at 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 lovable 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, there's his day job as battalion secretary to the inept but caring Commander Wallace Berman. On the side, there's everything from selling the locals 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 the base up, Elwood thinks the new blood is nothing he can't handle, especially after he lays eyes on the top's daughter, rebellious Robyn. But that was before he figured in the $5 million in stolen arms that just landed on ...Written by
Ed Harris was initially sent a copy of the script with the idea that he would play Sergeant Lee, but he found himself more drawn to the role of Colonel Berman, and was subsequently cast as such. See more »
When the tank runs over the Volkswagen Beetle, you can see the cable holding it down so it doesn't get pushed along (it's painted to blend in with the road). See more »
[after the gas station explosion]
What's wrong with these monitors? They've gone all orange.
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The end credits include the citation: 'The red cross emblem is an international symbol of neutral protection during armed conflicts, and its use is restricted by law. The purposes for which the red cross emblem is used by the characters in this film are clearly improper. The filmmakers wish to stress their support for proper use of the emblem, which has saved millions of lives throughout the world'. See more »
Without an enemy to fight, an army will fight itself or find its own enemies. In the tradition of "Sergeant Bilko" (the Phil Silvers TV show, not Steve Martin's ghastly remake) "Buffalo Soldiers" shows what happens when soldiers with nothing to do but wait for war begin to think for themselves and exploit the system.
In place of Bilko's poker games and lottery scams, Ray Elwood opts for black marketeering, drug dealing and gun running. However, the characters portrayed by Phil Silvers and Joaquin Phoenix respectively do have a lot in common.
The tone of "Buffalo Soldiers" is much darker than that of "Sergeant Bilko", but the film and TV series share the same absurd yet plausible vision. There are no chimpanzee conscripts like Private Harry Speakup in this movie, but there ARE characters who have clearly risen well above the level of their own incompetence. Ed Harris' Colonel Berman is a pathetic example of the uniformed, time-served bureaucrat, someone you could almost feel sorry for until you realise that one day he may have to lead men into combat.
Counterbalancing the Bilko-esquire vibe created by Elwood's wheeler-dealing is his nemesis, Scott Glenn's steely Sergeant Lee. Glenn clearly relishes his role in this movie and is very convincing as the model soldier with a true heart of darkness.
Joaquin Phoenix gives Elwood an understated charisma as he leads his troops from behind, rarely lifting the lid on the fear and frustration that simmers within him as the events he sets in motion go out of control.
To say that this film is anti-military is unfair as it contains portrayals of decent, honest and professional soldiers as well as the scammers, pimps and dopeheads that the plot focuses on. It is a film about human beings (with all their failings) in uniform, not soldiers. "Buffalo Soldiers" is anti-complacency, anti-indoctrination and anti-corruption, which is probably why its release was postponed after the September 11th terrorist outrage of 2001. In the light of recent despicable acts by a small group of US soldiers in Iraq's Abu Graib prison, this film seems eerily prescient. Without an enemy to fight in open combat, what happens to the aggression and contempt for that enemy that military training fosters?
Ignore the negative comments and give this under-rated film a chance. It was titled "Army Go Home" in Germany, where the film is set, echoing the feelings of German citizens who lived near foreign troops sent to defend them against Communism. The Beetle-crushing sequence (an absurdly comic high point of the film) is based on actual incidents involving bored, intoxicated British and American troops on manoeuvres, armed to the teeth and waiting for a war that never came.
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