Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

American Buffalo


I’ll admit I’m conflicted about David Mamet. He has scripted some movies that I thought were really good (though I wasn’t as taken by Glengarry Glen Ross as a lot of others were), but his dialogue can drive you a little bit crazy. Then you add in his 2008 conversion to the most insane conservative positions, passionately endorsing Mitt Romney, in favor of screwball “free market” economics, being rabidly against any form of gun control … I try my best to separate the artist from the art, but I am not always successful. Nowadays, when I hear his trademark machine-gun delivery from the actors, I just think of the asshole who wrote it.

And I hope my prejudice is not too much of a factor in my saying that I don’t think this is his best work. In fact, it’s no good at all. It’s a three character film, obviously adapted from his play, since all the action takes place in a funky junk store owned by Dennis Franz. The other main character is Dustin Hoffman, and the third is a young black stooge played by Sean Nelson.

Dennis has sold a buffalo-head nickel to a man for $90, and is regretting it, thinking it’s probably worth a lot more than that. He and Dustin and the kid are planning to burglarize his house and get it back and the rest of the guy’s coin collection … as soon as a guy named Fletcher arrives. You soon realize that Fletcher is about as likely to arrive as Godot in the 500th production of Samuel Beckett’s stupid play.

Even before that you know that the planned heist is never going to come off, that in fact nothing these two losers have ever planned has ever come off. So, since neither of these men is remotely likeable, the only pleasures one could get here are the performances and the dialogue. The performances, as you would expect of these two, are first-rate. The dialogue, not so much. I was bored out of my mind, and am only surprised that I finished this thing.