Eye For Film >> Movies >> Buffalo '66 (1997) Film Review
Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray
Something as personal as this can afford to take risks, carrying with it that rare good thing, integrity. Vincent Gallo has given intense performances in Palookaville and The Funeral. Phrases like "the new Pacino/Brando/Dean" purpled critics' perception. Certainly the most exciting new talent since...
Now he takes control as actor, director, co-writer and composer. The story is more of a fable than red-raw radical realism. It tells of Billy Brown (Gallo) who comes out of prison, having served four years for a crime he didn't commit, and takes the bus into town. Snow's on the sidewalk, as Buffalo settles into the long dark days of winter's early warning.
He calls his folks (Ben Gazzara and Anjelica Huston), lies about phoning from the lobby of a smart hotel, says he'll pop round with his new wife. Obviously, they have no idea where he's been, strung along with stories of success and romance and a job that involves constant travel. He kidnaps Layla (Christina Ricci), a girl in a tap dance class, and forces her to play the role of Mrs Brown for the afternoon. "Just be nice," he says. "Make me look good."
If Billy is screwed up, his parents are no better. Dad's an angry disappointed man and Mom's an obsessive football fan. Neither are interested in seeing their son and can barely be bothered to talk to him. Layla enters into the spirit by telling them what a great guy she's married to and about his job as an undercover CIA agent. By the end, she half believes what she's saying, which makes her just as screwy as him.
Billy's true mission is to kill the Buffalo Bill quarterback who missed the Super Bowl goal that cost him $10,000 and, in a round about sort of way, was responsible for his jail sentence. That's the crazy heart of it. Dysfunctional, or what? Why it works, why it is so watchable, is Gallo's energy, Ricci's sweetness, dialogue that leaps into life and the rough-diamond danger of its originality. Instead of safe visual cliches, you're being given edgy situations that could turn nasty at any moment.
Why Layla? Who Layla? Any normal girl would have abandoned the man and run. She is never explained and Ricci plays her as a lost soul with a generous heart. Perhaps she's lonely, too, and finds his bullying a comfort. The film is far from flawless and yet its flaws give it a unique quality that, despite everything, comes out of left field with a blazing roar. Everybody needs love. Even Billy, who has never known it.Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001