Movies get left on the shelf for a number of reasons. Sometimes it's financial, sometimes it's political and sometimes it's because they're just plain rubbish. Aussie director Gregor Jordan's first Hollywood project, Buffalo Soldiers, has been gathering dust for almost two years now. But not because it's a disaster - rather a combination of its original UK distributor being FilmFour and, well... Just look at the plot.
Specialist Ray Elwood (Joaquin Phoenix) is a US soldier posted to southwest Germany during the last year of the Cold War. His only enemy is boredom so, like any good American, he exercises his entrepreneurial spirit, cooking up smack, selling supplies on the black market and dealing arms to the local gangsters. Soon, however, hardass Sergeant Lee (Scott Glenn) is on his case, so Elwood reacts by boning Lee's daughter (Anna Paquin) - not a good idea when it appears the Sarge has killed men for less...
Corruption? Drug dealing? Murder? All performed by the US military? If Buffalo Soldiers had been shot post-9/11, you'd be forgiven for thinking it was made with the express purpose of pissing off as many people as possible. Especially as it plays like a pitch-black Sgt Bilko, Phoenix all cheeky charisma, his immoral antics portrayed as nothing more than a lark.
Even pre-9/11, the blending of thuggery, skulduggery and comedy would still have been hard to swallow. For while Jordan's clearly been influenced by the anti-establishment likes of M*A*S*H, Three Kings and Fight Club, he doesn't always get a firm grip on the lurches in tone.
That said, the performances are uniformly excellent (especially Ed Harris, cast against type as Elwood's ineffectual colonel), while Jordan's visuals are sparky enough to distract you from the patchy tone. Unless you're a supporter of 'Our' - or the USA's - 'Boys'. In which case, this'll be a red rag to your bull. Or should that be buffalo?