starring Dustin Hoffman, Dennis Franz and Sean Nelson
directed by Michael Corrente
Dustin Hoffman is one of the greatest actors of his generation. He’s performed on stage as well as film. Denis Franz is better known as a television actor. You might know his face, though not his name, from such American series as Hill Street Blues (set in the Chicago Police Department), or the more recent NYPD Blues.
American Buffalo is a well-executed urban character study. Not very exciting, really, but it is a good film if you are into seeing the craft of the actor well done. It is also a minimalist film. Only three characters appear in its entire 87-minutes. Almost all the action takes place in a junkshop on a single day, from early in the morning just after their poker game breaks up, until after midnight when they are still sitting n the junk shop.
The movie paints life on a modern, poverty-flirting American street. The junk shop owner and his socially marginal buddy sit around planning a burglary of a near-by house to recover a semi-valuable buffalo head American nickelrecently sold to a collector. The shop owner, Franz, simmers with resentment that he has been ripped off and cheated in the deal, so he intends to steal the coin back so he can re-sell it to a coin shop for much more.
Franz and his poker buddy, Hoffman, then set about planning the crime, and their total incompetence and social insignificance become starkly apparent in the course of the day: sad men, not on the fast-track of society, eking out their existence in a junk shop and a poor man’s residence hotel on a nondescript street somewhere in America.
In the end they do not perform their burglary. Friendship prevails and draws the two back together after disagreement over their plan forces them apart through most of the day.
Because of that ending we can say it is a very humanistic film. Despite the apparent depravity of the characters, their borderline social misfits, they are human being acting like humans, in a totally human situation . Their lives are banal - perfect ground for nurturing resentment-turning-to-Evil, and yet they find Good in the end by preserving their humanity.