The Devil's Odds

The Devil's Odds
St. Martin's Press. To Be Released Feb. 28, 2012

Friday, June 11, 2010

Buffalo 66 --- Don't Bother

This is the first time I have reviewed a movie on here, largely because it is the first time I have encountered one so uniformly bad and pretentious that it called forth my venom. The film in question is Buffalo 66 by indie/art house director/producer Vincent Gallo. Truthfully, a great many art house movies are very good. This is because they are made by people of considerable ability working in a medium they actually understand. However, Mr. Gallo submits himself to no such limitations. "Buffalo 66" is the second of his films that I have seen, and I can assure you this man operates entirely in the talent-free zone. Dedicated professional that he is, he throws his ham-handed ineptitude into each film he makes with the titanic energy of a nuclear bomb.

Not only that, but his character appears to be pure, unadulterated white trash. And not just garden variety white trash, either. We're talking about true social road kill here---the distilled and concentrated essence of all the white trash ever whelped in all the vast eons of the world's history since the very Morning of Time. One might conclude that this is the result of costuming and makeup. If one did, one would be very wrong. Mr. Gallo does not bother with costuming and the like. Long famous for his sleazy and disgusting off-camera behavior, it is obvious that he simply elects to play individuals who who look, talk, and act exactly as he does in real life.

The action begins when Gallo's character, a young miscrant named Billy Brown, is released at the gates of a prison after a stay of unstated length. Upon exit, he immediately needs to pee. Why Billy didn't pee while he was still in the joint, we are not told, although he does try to get back in for exactly that purpose, only to be rebuffed. This scene is no doubt designed to take the viewer back to childhood vacations when Dad would boom out in his most anoyed voice, "Damn it! I told you to go when you had the chance back there at the gas station." This is so we will identify and be sympathetic toward poor Billy. Doesn't work for me because no doubt Rasputin, John Wayne Gacey, and Hitler all needed to pee from time to time as well.

The next few minutes of action are dominated by Billy rushing around the neighborhood, all the while desperately grasping his crotch. In fact, this is the only part of the film that does work for me: one look at Billy/Gallo and I knew immediately that he was the kind of fellow who would be given to enthusiastically grasping his crotch in public. Indeed, he does it so well and with such native abandon that I would suggest he make it his signature quirk and find some reason to do it in all his future films.

Finally Billy winds up in a dance studio where he blunders into the bathroom. Will he relieve himself so that at long last we can be free of this peeing business? Of course not. He rapidly discerns, through a mental process to which we are not made privy, that the man at the next urinal is a homosexual. And as might be expected, he attacks this poor fellow no apparent reason. The purpose of this business is not to show our protagonist as a bigot. Far from it. It is meant to depict him as a man of such rare refinement and sensitivity that he can't let go while standing beside someone he thinks is gay. It is at this point that we begin to realize that Gallo is depicting a SENSITIVE BUT MISUNDERSTOOD YOUNG MAN. Whee!! Now we're getting somewhere.

This Homeric search for a bathroom serves the additional function of getting him into the dance studio so he could kidnap a young student named "Layla" portrayed by Christina Ricci. I used the term "portrayed" in its broadest sense, here. Ricci never actually acts in this pathetic excuse for a film. Instead, she merely stands around looking like an overripe peach waiting for some psychotic white trash peckerwood to come along and pluck her.

The long and the short of the matter is that Billy wants Layla, who was grabbed either at random or because of her prominently displayed cleavage, to impersonate his non-existent wife while he visits his parents. But before we can deal with that, we must first dispense with the peeing business. He forces her to drive her car outside of town where he leaves her at the wheel of the idling vehicle while he runs about fifty yards out into a nearby field to (at long last) tend to business. Does Layla do the sensible thing and simply put the car in gear and drive off, leaving this lunatic to his own devices? Of course not. This is because she has obviously intuited that he is a SENSITIVE BUT MISUNDERSTOOD YOUNG MAN. It is at this point that we begin to realize that somewhere down the road she is going to give him THE LOVE HE NEVER HAD.

Arriving at his home, we meet his parents, Jimmy and Jan Brown, played by Ben Gazzara and Anjelica Huston. Billy has told them that he has been working in Europe for the U.S. Government in some refined capacity. One wonders why they are so clueless that they don't know he has been in prison. There is also the question of why they are so gullible as to believe that someone who looks like their disastrous oaf of a son could actually be a high-level government employee. This is an issue that is not addressed at this point. However, the reasons later become apparent as Layla asks to see Billy's baby pictures. After a monumental search that rivals their son's desperate quest for a urinal, they finally unearth them. Or I suppose I should say they unearth IT. That's right---Jimmy and Jan have only one photo of baby Billy, though they have whole albums full of pictures of the Buffalo Bills pro football team. Indeed, their entire house is a sort of mystic shrine to the Bills, with statues and posters and memorabilia scattered hither-thither all over the place. Now we get it. Poor Billy was neglected in favor of a football team.

As one last insult to the viewer's intelligence, Layla, who has revealed herself to Billy as a vegan, sits down to supper with the family. Momma Jan hauls out the evening's fare, which happens to be a steaming platter full of stewed cow guts.

Had enough? I had, and this is where I quit watching.

Did I mention that this mess of a film squanders some first rate acting talent in the persons of Gazzara, Huston and Mickey Rourke? Did I mention that it is a pointless, pretentious and nonsensical waste of time? Did I mention that it is utter drivel? Did I?.... Well, you get the point even if Gallo didn't.

One final note: Gallo is said to get annoyed when he is told---as he often is---that he would be perfect to play Charles Manson. Can't the man take a hint?


  1. Being in the entertainment industry for a couple of decades, one could not avoid hearing tales of Mr. Gallo and both his cinematic and personal excess. As well as his lewd, and crude demands upon his actresses. I'd give Ricci credit just for getting that close to the guy!

  2. "We're talking about true social road kill here---the distilled and concentrated essence of all the white trash ever whelped in all the vast eons of the world's history since the very Morning of Time."

    Is this movie about one of my distant relatives?

    Sounds like a truly useless flick.

  3. Not that I know of, Larry. I have a few like that in my own family, though.

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