Urban Cinefile
"When you read a newspaper or watch TV, don't forget this is horseshit. "  -- Primary Colors director Mike Nichols on media rumours that the White House applied pressure during filmmaking
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



Billy Brown (Vincent Gallo) is released from jail just outside Buffalo City one cold winter morning, after five years inside. Bedraggled and broke, by the time the bus comes, he is dying for a piss. Frustrated at every opportunity, he desperately seeks relief as a last resort, inside a small ballet school where class in progress. Things still don’t go well, but he bumps into one of the students, Layla (Christina Ricci). Billy effectively kidnaps Layla to take her back to his parents so she can pretend to be his wife, to keep up five years of pretence. His football-obsessed mother, Janet (Anjelica Huston) a permanent barracker for Buffalo’s team, and his morose father, Jimmy (Ben Gazzara) ooze callous disregard for Billy, but warmly embrace his pretty young wife. From this unusual, faked relationship, Layla builds a real one. Then, Billy comes face to face with the footballer who missed the vital goal in 66, who turns out to be the operator of a strip club. This is the man Billy wants to kill.

"Born on the day in 1966 that Buffalo’s football team was one goal from winning the championship - and his mother never forgave him for making her miss it – Billy Brown would be a tragic figure were he not redeemable. Gallo’s script had me wondering how he would end it: up? Or Down? The fact that it could have gone either way is a sign of his film’s brutal honesty – albeit presented with occasionally surreal, heightened-reality humour. And that’s the other thing about the film: the plenty of smiles it gives us, even as we recoil from the lack of parental love and care….. Gallo directs with a flair that shows his utter confidence in his subject matter: Billy the unloved. But towering above even Gallo’s inventive, bravado style of directing, are the performances; both his own and Ricci’s multi-layered, sensitive, superbly judged portrait of a young woman at first mesmerised and slowly drawn to this loner. Although never openly stated, we get the impression she falls for Billy as much out of a mix of mother instinct and compassion as out of full throttle romance. And Gazzara and Huston are unrecognisably terrific as the choked-up parents. Buffalo 66, with its painful revelations of the past, its well conceived plot - and why Billy went to jail is not the usual fare, either - and its riveting emotional journey is a formidable film from a first time writer/director, a unique snapshot of a small group of middle Americans."
Andrew L. Urban

"Highly original and distinctive, Vincent Gallo’s Buffalo 66 is an intriguing, quirky film with fascinating elements. The script hones in on the characters: there’s a sadness and despair about all of them, yet they compel and engage. The balance between reality, wishful thinking and deception is as times as brutal as mental boxing match, and as we embark on Billy’s journey of nostalgia, duty, revenge and redemption, we become fascinated by this dishevelled character who looks as though he is in need of a good scrub. Christina Ricci is wonderful as the accosted stand-in wife, whose instruction to "make Billy look good" seems to spark in her a verve for living. The underlying sadness and implied loneliness are all beautifully described, and we all fall a little in love with her – hers is the only character who is genuinely being emotionally unselfish, and giving of herself. Ricci seems to be getting better and better… Ben Gazzara and Anjelica Huston are both extraordinary as the despicable parents, whose reality is as distant from the truth as the extremes of weather. The way they cope with their shocking past behaviour is to pretend it never happened. These experienced thesps are a joy to watch – you will long remember Gazzara’s ‘Daddy loves you’ manner, and that tragic pathos when asked to sing. But all the characters deliver surprises, while quirky humour seeps through every step of the way. The tragic elements are counteracted by the bizarre, the unexpected and the comic. Kevin Corrigan as Goon (a far cry from his role in Bandwagon) will make your heart ache with compassion. Buffalo 66 is striking, exciting cinema showcasing Gallo as a filmmaker, writer and actor to be reckoned with – goddam, he even composed the music! The film describes only too well the paradox and struggle of the underdog/victim, yet retains all the humour and hope that propels us into a stimulating journey of innovative filmmaking."
Louise Keller

"Vincent Gallo's singular first feature as writer-director-star begins from a classic maudlin premise: the misfit hero who's really just a lost little boy, running scared from intimacy, afraid of being hurt. Buffalo 66 is compelling partly because of Gallo's naked need to see this fantasy work. Pushing the hangdog aggression, self-pity and stupidity of his character to the limit, he stakes everything on the hope that his audience will respond with forgiving love and compassion. The results (shot partly at Gallo's childhood home) come close to 'vanity project' self-indulgence: the scenario has a threadbare, unreal quality, like an actor's exercise abjectly assembled from whatever props and gimmicks were closest to hand. Most of the supporting characters (like Billy's awful parents) are cartoon freaks, while the hazy, blue-filtered reversal-stock photography suggests a mist wrapped round the action, a wintry cosiness. The desperation in Billy's ranting, poverty-stricken speech (repeating the same phrases endlessly, till he beats them to death) tends to elide the border between Billy's improvised relationship with Layla/Wendy and the equally precarious fiction underlying the film itself. Both are always on the verge of dissolving into a failed skit, two actors' forlorn mugging in a bleak concrete no-place. Next to Gallo's flailing, the precocious poise of Ricci's character – with her fairy-doll dress, chubby cheeks, and calm of a teenage sphinx – seems magical, almost angelic. The film is sustained by similar talismans scattered throughout: flashbacks set in miniature frames like family photos, a couple of musical sequences dropped into the story as unexpected gifts. One of the films of the year."
Jake Wilson

Email this article


CAST: Vincent Gallo, Christina Ricci, Anjelica Huston, Ben Gazzara, Kevin Corrigan, Mickey Rourke, Rosanna Arquette, Jan-Michael Vincent

DIRECTOR: Vincent Gallo

PRODUCER: Chris Hanley

SCRIPT: Vincent Gallo, Alison Bagnall (original story by Gallo)


EDITOR: Curtiss Clayton

MUSIC: Vincent Gallo


RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 8, 1998 - Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane; Oct 22 - Adelaide, Perth

VIDEO RELEASE: June 16, 1999


© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020