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"BUFFALO SOLDIERS"
(2003) (Joaquin Phoenix, Scott Glenn) (R)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Heavy Heavy Extreme Moderate Extreme
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Mild Minor Mild *None Extreme
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Heavy Heavy Mild Moderate Extreme


QUICK TAKE:
Drama/Comedy: An Army supply clerk's black market activities are threatened when a new superior officer sets out to ruin him at the onset of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
PLOT:
Ray Elwood (JOAQUIN PHOENIX) is a supply clerk at a U.S. Army base in Germany in the late 1980s. With nothing to kill but time, Elwood has taken advantage of the system and makes extra bucks selling Army supplies and cooking up his own heroin.

His commanding officer, Colonel Wallace Berman (ED HARRIS), is so hell-bent on making a name for himself through an ancestor that he's oblivious to Elwood's activities that include sleeping with Berman's wife (ELIZABETH MCGOVERN). Although he gets some flack from M.P. Sergeant Saad (SHEIK MAHUMD-BEY), Elwood's black market lifestyle is otherwise unencumbered.

That is, until the hard-nosed Sergeant Robert Lee (SCOTT GLENN) arrives. A stern Vietnam veteran, he isn't happy with Elwood's attitude or activities and sets out to crack down on both, even placing him with a new roommate, Knoll (GABRIEL MANN). In response, Elwood romantically pursues Lee's wild daughter, Robyn (ANNA PAQUIN), just to spite him.

As the tension rises and Elwood tries to deal with a recently received shipment of black market arms, it's only a matter of time before the tit-for-tat behavior between him and Lee turns into something far more serious.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
If they're fans of someone in the cast or are interested in military satires, they just might (but the film seems most attractive to older teenagers at best).
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: R
For violence, drug content, strong language and some sexuality.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • JOAQUIN PHOENIX plays a military supply clerk who uses strong profanity, smokes, makes drugs, steals from military and sells on the black market, and has sex with Robyn and Berman's wife.
  • ED HARRIS plays Elwood's superior officer who uses profanity, is oblivious to Elwood's behavior and is only concerned with trying to make a name for himself.
  • SCOTT GLENN plays a Vietnam vet who isn't happy with Elwood or his practices and sets out to make an example of him. He also uses strong profanity.
  • ANNA PAQUIN plays Lee's daughter who has sex with Elwood, has some ecstasy pills, and uses strong profanity.
  • ELIZABETH MCGOVERN plays Berman's wife who isn't happy with him and thus has an affair with Elwood. She smokes and uses some strong profanity.
  • DEAN STOCKWELL plays a general who isn't amused by Berman's quest for status via a Civil War ancestor. He drinks and uses some profanity.
  • MICHAEL PEÑA plays Elwood's comrade and partner in crime. He uses strong profanity.
  • GABRIEL MANN plays Elwood's new roommate who uses strong profanity, gets beat up, and turns sides.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.


    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).


    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    Here's a brief summary of the content found in this R-rated drama/comedy. Profanity consists of at least 104 "f" words, while many other expletives and colorful phrases are also uttered. Brief sexually related comments are made, while several sexual encounters (with movement and sounds), make out sessions and implied/off-camera sexual activity (intercourse and oral sex) are present.

    Violence consists of various deaths (by accident and from intent including gunfire, stabbings and explosions), fighting and beating, and property damage. Some of that material has bloody/gory results (occasionally quite a bit) and some of those scenes may be unsettling or suspenseful to some viewers.

    Various characters drink and/or smoke, while drugs are manufactured and some drug use (heroin, ecstasy) occurs. Various characters have varying degrees of bad attitudes. Should you still be concerned about the film's appropriateness for yourself or anyone else in your home, you may want to look more closely at our detailed listings for more specific information regarding the film's content.

    For those concerned about bright flashing lights on the screen, some of that briefly occurs in a scene set in a club.


    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • We see a man packing a syringe along with what looks like a small package of drugs.
  • A dead soldier is noted as having been a junkie and we later hear that he had heroin, speed and cocaine in his system.
  • Miscellaneous people have beer.
  • We see Elwood manufacturing heroin (out of morphine) on the base.
  • We see a guy shooting up heroin inside a tank that then rumbles through a town (with the driver also being high), destroying property and resulting in some deaths.
  • A man wants to pay Elwood for stolen weapons with heroin (and they agree upon 30 kilos).
  • We see some wine in an office.
  • We see a photo of Berman at a vineyard holding a glass and bottle of wine.
  • Lee has a beer.
  • Miscellaneous people have drinks in a club where Robyn pulls out some Ecstasy pills for her and Elwood (we don't see them take them).
  • We hear that Robyn was burned as a child when her father was drunk.
  • People have wine and drinks at a party (including General Lancaster, Lee and Berman) where Elwood and another soldier serve as bartenders.
  • Elwood gives Knoll some sort of pill to calm him after he's been beaten. He and Knoll then have beer.
  • Berman has a drink.
  • Elwood and others have beer.
  • Elwood talks to Knoll about making heroin (and needing food to offset the effect of the vapors) and we then see their large lab that's filled with many canisters designed for that. Later, a man is high from inhaling the fumes from the production process.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • A soldier hits the floor hard (during indoor football) and we then see blood on the back of his head and the floor.
  • We briefly see some charred and slightly bloody bodies (following an explosion), but it's nothing terribly graphic.
  • We see some rough and large burn scars on Robyn's belly and side (from a childhood accident).
  • We see blood on Knoll's face after he's been beaten (quite a bit). We later see scabs on his face.
  • Elwood's face and mouth are bloody after being punched (and there's some blood on the floor beneath him).
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Elwood repeatedly steals from the military and then sells his goods on the black market. He also manufactures and sells drugs (and lies about his activities and/or tries to bribe others, such as Lee, so that he can continue). Those who work with him have similar bad attitudes.
  • Soldiers throw a dead comrade out the window to make it look as if he died from the fall rather than during an indoor football game (from a distance, we see the body falling from a several story building).
  • Saad is Elwood's rival who doesn't like him.
  • Elwood and Berman's wife are having an affair, and Elwood later sees Lee's daughter just to get back at him. In response, Lee makes Elwood's life a living hell, beats him and even tries to kill him.
  • We see a guy shooting up heroin inside a tank that then rumbles through a town (with the driver also being high), destroying property and resulting in some deaths.
  • Some viewers might not like Elwood responding to a question by saying, "Does the pope sh*t in the woods?"
  • Some viewers might not like seeing a black soldier dressed in a Civil War confederate uniform during a party (where he's serving drinks).
  • Some military men surround Knoll at night and on a deserted street. One then punches him and the scene ends, but we later see Knoll and his face is very bloody. During this, a racist comment is made (by a black man toward Knoll, who's white).
  • A soldier sets up Elwood to help bring him down.
  • Lee admits to doing bad things in Vietnam, including some of what Elwood is currently doing.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • Scenes listed under "Violence" might also be unsettling, tense or suspenseful to some viewers.
  • For those afraid of heights and/or falling, we twice see a dream where Elwood is free-falling toward Earth without a parachute and then races toward the street (we don't see the impact, but do see his body on it). Later, Robyn has Elwood join her atop a high dive and the two sit on the edge of it (he's nervous). After she dives in and then doesn't resurface, he throws all caution to the wind and jumps in (both are fine).
  • A soldier opens a locked cabinet, only to find it booby-trapped with a grenade that then explodes and kills him.
  • We realize a man is preparing to throw a wounded man out a window. He then grabs that man and has him partially out the window, when another man comes in and holds his gun on the first man.
  • We realize that a drug lab is about to explode due to rising temperatures in the production process.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • Handguns/Rifles/Machine guns/Knives/Tanks/Grenade: Seen and/or carried in standard military practice, or used to threaten, wound or kill people or cause property damage. See "Violence" for details.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "F*cked up," "F*ckers," "What the f*ck /was that/is that?" "You're f*cking crazy," "Shut the f*ck up," "F*ck you up," "Oh, f*ck," "I don't give a f*ck," "Get the f*ck off me," "F*ck it," "No f*cking way," "F*ck you," "You dumb f*ck," "Oh sh*t," "Holy sh*t," "Very serious sh*t," "Does the pope sh*t in the woods?" "No sh*t," "Give a sh*t," "Bullsh*t," "D*ckhead," "Freaking me out," "Piss (him) off," "Balls" (testicles), "Get your ass over here," "Bastards" and "Idiot."
  • JUMP SCENES
  • The sight and sound of a sudden explosion might startle some viewers.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • A mild amount of such music plays in the film.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None that we heard, but some songs had lyrics that we couldn't fully hear and/or understand, thus the potential is present for them to contain potentially objectionable lyrics.
  • PROFANITY
  • At least 104 "f" words (9 used with "mother"), 38 "s" words, 1 slang term for sex ("did"), 1 slang term each using male and female genitals ("d*ck" and "p*ssy"), 8 asses (2 used with "hole"), 6 hells, 3 damns, 2 craps, 1 S.O.B., and 7 uses of "G-damn," 5 of "Jesus Christ," 2 of "For God's sakes," and 1 use each of "My God," "Oh Jesus" and "Oh Jesus Christ" as exclamations.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • We hear sexual sounds and comments, and then see Berman's wife, Liz, having sex on top of Elwood. We see this from a distance and the camera is behind them (we see movement, but no nudity as she's wearing lingerie). We then see them lying side by side after they're done. She then starts kissing down his body and soon disappears out of the shot (we see and hear his pleasured reaction).
  • We see a Playboy magazine inside a tank (in the background), but don't see anything beyond its non-explicit cover.
  • We see a man in a small bathing suit (from a distance) and then see both Liz and Robyn in high-cut one-piece ones (Robyn shows cleavage there and then when she's swimming underwater toward the camera).
  • After Knolls refers to fiancée by her military title, Elwood sarcastically asks if he also salutes her in bed.
  • Elwood and Robyn briefly passionately kiss while standing in a club. He later kisses her scarred belly/side that she shows him (from a childhood accident) in a parked car. They then do some more passionate kissing in the car and we then see Lee's point of view out a window and above them as Elwood removes his jacket and climbs on top of Robyn in the front seat that's been reclined (both are clothed and the shot is brief).
  • Another soldier asks Elwood if he (Elwood) "did" (had sex with) Lee's daughter.
  • A comment is made that several officers are trying to "suck" a General's "d*ck" (meaning suck up to him for advancement).
  • Robyn shows a tiny bit of cleavage in a low-cut dress.
  • Robyn and Elwood engage in some clothed passionate kissing.
  • After a party and back home, Berman touches his wife (nothing explicit) and when she recoils, he says it's been a while (presumably talking about sex). Nothing else happens.
  • Elwood and Robyn do some passionate clothed kissing on a high dive platform. She then removes her top and pants (to reveal her in a bra and panties). She then dives into the pool, he jumps after her and they do more passionate kissing in the pool. They then move over to a more isolated part of the pool and we see (from an aerial view and a bit of a distance) them kissing on some steps in the shallow end with him between her legs that are wrapped around him. We later see them lying together near the pool (clothed) and sex is implied.
  • SMOKING
  • Elwood smokes more than 10 times, several minor characters each smoke at least once and various miscellaneous characters also smoke.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • Berman's wife is not happy with him and his career. She's also having an affair with Elwood.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • The military.
  • The black market.
  • People taking advantage of their work and others for their own benefit.
  • The fall of the Berlin Wall.
  • VIOLENCE
  • We briefly see Elwood's body on the street after hitting it during a dream (we don't see the impact, just the non-bloody results).
  • Some soldiers play football inside a room and there are some rough tackles and hitting. One soldier hits the floor hard and we then see blood on the back of his head and the floor (we also hear that he's dead).
  • Soldiers throw a dead comrade out the window to make it look as if he died from the fall rather than during an indoor football game (from a distance, we see the body falling from a several story building).
  • Several men (including the driver) are high inside a military tank that then crashes through a village (squashing carts and a VW bug - but no one is hurt). It later runs over some pumps at a gas station, resulting in gasoline spewing onto it. That gasoline then explodes and the resultant explosion engulfs two soldiers (those inside the tank are unharmed). We briefly see the burned and slightly bloody bodies and the tank then later drives over some trees.
  • Lee kicks a TV and destroys it (as a message to Elwood).
  • Lee has his unit blast Elwood's parked car (a substitution for an enemy tank) with gunfire and we see automatic rifles and machine guns blasting it (no one is inside it). The car then explodes.
  • Some men surround Knoll at night and on a deserted street. One then punches him and the scene ends, but we later see Knoll and his face is very bloody.
  • A soldier opens a locked cabinet, only to find it booby-trapped with a grenade that then explodes and kills him.
  • A man hits Elwood in the face.
  • Saad's men take Knoll away and we hear what sound like sounds of violence. He then comes back out and aims his gun at them and Saad. Someone then distracts Knoll and the men grab and tackle him to the floor. Saad then aims his gun at Knoll, but Elwood fires a warning shot near Saad to make him stop.
  • There's some blank gunfire during a military exercise.
  • Lee punches Elwood and then does so again (with bloody results). He then puts his knee down on Elwood's chest and punches him again (with more blood), while another man carries Robyn away (she struggles) and puts her into a truck.
  • Men storm into a drug lab and aim their guns at those inside. One drugged up man then approaches with his gun drawn and the soldiers open fire on him and others, killing several of them (with no blood). We then hear more shots being fired in a mini-gun battle.
  • We realize a man is preparing to throw a wounded man out a window. He then grabs that man and has him partially out the window, when another man comes in and holds his gun on the first man.
  • A large explosion destroys much of a building, apparently killing one man who's engulfed by it. Another man then pulls a third man out of a window and down into the explosion (we hear that one was killed and the other wounded - we don't see the impact, but do see them on the ground).
  • Mostly seen in silhouette and with no blood, one man stabs another with a knife (in the gut/chest) and that man returns the action.



  • Reviewed May 19, 2003 / Posted August 8, 2003

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