American Buffalo [1996]

Genre: Drama
David Mamet's hit play from the 1970s has made it to the screen with its grim humor intact. The story of a robbery that never actually happens, the three-character drama focuses on a set of small-timers looking for a big score: Donny (Dennis Franz), who runs a junk shop; his jittery young assistant, Bobby (Sean Nelson); and Teach (Dustin Hoffman), a card-playing pal of Donny's with a nose for a shifty deal. Donny has accidentally sold a rare buffalo-head nickel to a customer not realizing what it's worth, and so he and Bobby are planning to steal it back--and Teach wants a piece of the job. Mamet's trademark testosterone-fueled jabber is less about crime than about the ways men talk to--and at--each other. Hoffman is grungily appealing as a guy who always goes a step too far, while Franz brings a quiet power to his role as a man who always knows more than he says. --Marshall Fine

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