In Buffalo 66, Billy Brown is let out of prison after serving time for a crime he didn’t do. He served the time to get out of a huge gambling debt
What I find most enjoyable with independent films is that they have very little budget and have to rely upon talent and not post-production magic to get the story across. One of the best recent examples of this is Vincent Gallo’s Buffalo 66.
As with all successful Indies, the plot in Buffalo 66 is simple enough but the execution is amazingly complex. Billy Brown is let out of prison after serving time for a crime he didn’t do. He served the time to get out of a huge gambling debt. After Billy leaves prison he immediately has to use the bathroom.
They won’t let him back to relieve himself, the bus ride is long and there seems to be no relief in sight. Billy stops off at a tap dancing school to go and decides to visit his parents. On his way out he manages to kidnap one of the student dancers and even convinces her to impersonate his wife and tell his folks he works for the Government. Billy has a goal in life.
He lost the bet that resulted in his imprisonment due to a bad play by Buffalo Bill’s player Scott Wood. Billy wants to kill him and cannot rest until he does so. The girl that Billy kidnaps, Lalya, goes along with Billy’s plan even adding some unwelcome tidbits of her own. One such addition is that Billy is a major player for the CIA. Billy and Layla seem to drift in and out of scenes but you have to keep an eye on the detail and really listen to the dialogue. It’s great. This complete mismatch slowly blossoms into a true relationship. The depth of the human drama here is what will bind you to Buffalo 66 and hold your attention..
Billy is played by writer/director Vincent Gallo. Gallo is not the typical Hollywood leading man. He looks like a guy just out of prison, waiting to go back inside. Gallo takes you not only into Billy’s world but provides a tour of his mind. We get to see the subtle progress of his change. A slow, almost hesitant change one iota of his personality at a time. It is rare that a writer/director/actor can handle all of these hats in his first try. Gallo not only handles the tasks, he excels in them.
The up coming queen of the Indies, Christina Ricci, magnificently portrays Layla. Ms. Ricci has certainly grown up since her Addams Family films. She has matured into a talented and professional actor. There is one scene that seems to make little sense but I love it. While in a bowling ally with Billy Lalya slowly begins to perform a tap dance to the accompaniment of King Crimson’s ‘MoonChild’. A spotlight encircles Ricci as she slowly does an actual tap dance to the tune. In the end of the movie Ricci shows a command of her emotional portrayal that is rarely seen now.
Gallo’s talent is not restricted to his acting. As a director he doesn’t follow the lead of most directors and explode the story before your eyes, the story is built, or rather, cooked. The ingredients are mixed with care, strong leads, interesting secondary characters, interesting story, and like a good bread dough, left to rise. Then, as the story progresses Gallo increases the strain on Billy and the story begins to bake. The nuances blending together whetting your appetite. Each scene is framed with care and consideration.
One scene in particularly must have been difficult to film. Billy, Layla and Billy’s parents (Ben Gazzara and Anjelica Huston) art sitting around a square table. The camera can only show three at any one time since it takes on the viewpoint of each character as the action travels around the table. It is the use of imagination such as what is shown in the unique camera angles and setups that makes Buffalo 66 worth while.
While the Buffalo 66 disc is typical indie fare, Dolby 2.0 Surround/1:1.85 with little in the way of extras. Still Buffalo 66 is worth watching as is the career of Mr. Gallo.Review by Doug MacLean of hometheaterinfo.com
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