'Buffalo 66' is a sweet tale of losers

July 10, 1998|By Ann Hornaday | Ann Hornaday,SUN FILM CRITIC

The question has been raised before in these very pages: Does the world really need another dysfunctional-family drama? While we're at it, does the world need another hyper-realistic contemporary drama, shot with edgy intensity, about a lowlife who finds redemption through the affection of another marginal character?

The answer is usually no, but somehow the actor Vincent Gallo ("Palookaville"), who makes his writing-directing debut with "Buffalo 66," has succeeded in giving all of these cliches an unexpected sweetness, humor and cinematic style.

"Buffalo 66," which draws heavily on Gallo's own troubled family for its bleak portrait of neurotic love, no doubt derives its power and authenticity from its real-life roots, but Gallo doesn't just stand on autobiographical laurels. Grabbing artistic techniques from as far afield as Jean-Luc Godard and Dennis Potter, he delivers his scroungy fable with panache.

Gallo plays Billy Brown, who was born in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1966 to Jimmy and Janet Brown (Ben Gazzara, Anjelica Huston), a temperamental bully and obsessed Buffalo Bills fan, respectively.

The audience meets Billy as he walks out of prison; for the next 24 hours, Billy will kidnap a tap-dance student (Christina Ricci), force her to impersonate his imaginary wife for the benefit of his family, suffer through a dinner of tripe and parental apathy and plot a murder. He will also find love, in spite of his own prickly nature.

Gallo takes a page from De Niro for his portrayal of the angry, vindictive Billy, but even at his most mannered he is hypnotically ZTC watchable, and as a director he has cast the rest of "Buffalo 66" with impeccable taste. And to his credit, he finds a plausible happy ending to this grim tale of enmeshment and loser-dom.

'Buffalo 66'

Starring Vincent Gallo, Christina Ricci, Anjelica Huston, Ben Gazzara

Directed by Vincent Gallo

Released by Lions Gate Films

Unrated

Running time: 110 minutes

Sun Score: ** 1/2

Pub Date: 7/10/98

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