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    Buffalo Guys

    Posted by Mike Finnegan on

    Shot in its director’s hometown of Pawtucket, RI, Michael Corrente’s film adaptation of David Mamet’s enduringly popular stage play American Buffalo (1996) perfectly attunes the seedy details of milieu and low-life circumstance with a razor-edged precision that transforms Pawtucket into a mirror for any downtrodden downtown ’hood in Anyburg, USA. The ramshackle look of its primary interior setting, the dank and cluttered junk shop owned by the world-weary Donny (Dennis Franz), is a showcase of disorganization. The neighboring streets that the other principal players, heist-plotter extraordinaire Teach (Dustin Hoffman) and Donny’s naïve, would-be burglar gofer Bobby (Sean Nelson), are barren wastelands of frittered dreams. What these three have, a profanely bounteous gift from screen adaptor Mamet, are their schemes and words. On stage, the plot and patter were delivered by such virtuosos as Robert Duvall, Kenneth McMillan and John Savage (the 1977 Broadway original) and Al Pacino, James Hayden and J.J. Johnston (the 1983 Broadway revival), and the electric sizzle of Mametized scorch and scabrousness were served up with volatile ferocity. As produced for the screen by the play’s original Chicago stager Gregory Mosher, the camera becomes another essential character, searching the faces of Hoffman (cinema’s indelible Ratzo Rizzo of Midnight Cowboy), Franz (beloved as Detective Andy Sipowitz, the troubled heart and soul of TV’s NYPD Blue) and Nelson (the breakout star of 1994’s inner-city drug-crime saga Fresh) for sparks of life and twisted wit as they construct their own illusory vision of free enterprise in a screwed-up world via good, old-fashioned theft. Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly considered their three-way tango to be “about nothing less Mametian than commerce, friendship, betrayal, despair, and American hustle,” while The New York Times’ Stephen Holden judged the leap from stage to screen as a valid exercise for both eyes and ears: “With its staccato, profanity-laced language and metaphorically potent setting, American Buffalo folds a stylized parody of American gangster movies into a bleak Samuel Beckett vision that is wide enough to accommodate many interpretations. A harsh fable about American free enterprise is shrunk into the tortured domestic drama of an odd couple – one of them pathetically weak but caring, the other a selfish, paranoid destroyer – and how that couple betrays their orphan son. If such a notion is far from being the broadest and deepest interpretation of American Buffalo, it adds another resonanceto the heap of them already surrounding a work that only grows richer in meaning as the years pass.” Only two weeks remain to obtain Twilight Time’s hi-def Blu-ray of American Buffalo, with its twangy, melancholic Thomas Newman score on an Isolated Track and TT’s resident mavens Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman having their eloquent say about the words and worlds of Mamet, before our rights expire. It’s specially priced – and special to experience.