Friday, February 10, 2012

Review: American Buffalo

VHS cover image courtesy
American Buffalo (1996) ** out of 5 asterisks
Director: Michael Corrente
Starring: Dennis Franz, Dustin Hoffman, Sean Nelson 

The tagline for this movie is "They had a plan. It wasn't worth a nickel."
Sadly, I didn't think this movie was even worth a nickel. It's a very slow, dialog-heavy drama that takes forever to lead anywhere, and the ending it finally leads up to -- after a whole lot of yelling between Dennis Franz and Dustin Hoffman -- is pointless and provides no closure for the conflict created in the story. It just sort of ...ends. 
I'll grant that Franz is solid in his role, and so is Sean Nelson (who was a relative newcomer to the movie biz at the time).

But Hoffman plays a character so annoying and without any redeeming qualities that I just wanted Franz to lose it, tell him to shut up and bash him in the head. With all due respect to an Oscar-winning actor like Hoffman, his performance in this is just a little too much and the director should have dialed him down a bit. Furthermore, the movie was shot like the David Mamet stage play it's based on: three characters and one setting. I don't think that translated too well for the big screen -- it felt like I was watching a stage play.

But there are film critics who loved this, including the late Gene Siskel who gave the film "thumbs up" and called the performances "superb." So
I suppose if you like dialog-driven dramas and are a fan of Mamet's plays as well as Hoffman's or Franz's acting, it's at least worth watching for the banter between Franz and Hoffman. The dialog is certainly well-scripted, but Hoffman's unlikeable character, the slow pace and lack of a satisfying ending ruined the film experience for me.