Buffalo Soldiers [1997]

Inviting casual comparison to Catch-22 and M*A*S*H, Buffalo Soldiers is an Army-base comedy about soldiers "with nothing to kill except time." It's 1989: The Berlin Wall is falling, completing the cold war's thaw, and Ray Elwood (Joaquin Phoenix)--a clerk with the 317th Supply Battalion, stationed in West Germany--combats boredom with a variety of black-market schemes, from cooking heroin for the base's corrupt MPs to dealing stolen arms to the highest bidder, in addition to having a shallow affair with the two-timing wife (Elizabeth McGovern) of his outgoing commander (Ed Harris). Elwood's new CO (Scott Glenn) clamps down on his illegal activities while protecting his daughter (Anna Paquin) from Elwood's advances. Fine casting and positive buzz couldn't prevent this movie's ironic fate: Acquired by Miramax one day before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Buffalo Soldiers--based on the celebrated novel by Robert O'Connor--was shelved for nearly two years, by which time this dark and defiantly amusing exercise in political incorrectness had been overshadowed by world events. --Jeff Shannon

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