Buffaloed (2019) Review

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In Buffaloed (2019): 6 out of 10: Peg Dahl (Zoey Deutch) is a street-smart hustler born into a blue-collar family in Buffalo, New York. Inspired by her late father’s knack for making money, Peg dreams of attending an Ivy League school and working on Wall Street to escape her family’s financial struggles. However, when she can’t afford college tuition, she turns to selling counterfeit tickets to Buffalo Bills games, leading to a stint in prison.

Upon her release, Peg reluctantly takes a job cleaning toilets at her brother (Noah Reid) J.J.’s bar. But her entrepreneurial spirit drives her to hustle her way out of debt by working for a local debt collection firm. Rising through the ranks, Peg eventually goes legit and starts her own debt collection business, recruiting a motley crew of fellow hustlers to join her.

Despite initial success, Peg faces sabotage and threats from her former employer, Wizz (Jai Courtney), who is deeply entrenched in Buffalo’s shady debt collection racket. Wizz not only destroys Peg’s offices but also targets her personal life, including seizing her brother’s bar. As tensions escalate, Peg’s determination to succeed drives her to confront Wizz head-on.

In a heated confrontation, Peg takes matters into her own hands, engaging in a physical altercation with Wizz. However, her actions attract the attention of the authorities, leading to her arrest for firing a firearm. Despite the setback, Peg’s resilience and determination remain unwavering as she fights to overcome the obstacles in her path and carve out a better future for herself and her family.

The Good

The Good: Buffaloed is a live action cartoon with Zoey Deutch as more dimwitted Bugs Bunny going from one scam to another before landing on the idea of being a debt collector which is an industry that has been haunting her family since her father’s untimely death.

The cast is delightful, and the film is breezy. I had fun watching it and there are some (though not enough) laughs in the piece. Plus Judy Greer always adds at least one point to the score of any movie she is in.

The Bad

The Bad: I talk more about the debt collection piece down below, but the script has a ton of things that simply do not add up. Much is made of her family’s poverty, but they are clearly Hollywood poor. (They own a bar for christ sakes).

There is a scene early on where Zoey gets into an Ivy League college but decides instead of getting a free ride through scholarships and foundations (Or at least looking into it. Or you know loans.) She would pay for her college by photocopying Buffalo Bill’s tickets and scalping them. A scam that might work once if you wear a disguise and run fast enough and might generate a thousand bucks at most.

Zoey Deutch’s character is clearly an anti-hero with very severe character flaws. Miss Deutch has both the acting chops and charisma to pull this off in spades. Unfortunately, the script lost the memo. And for reasons I cannot figure out instead of leaning into this obvious dark path, Buffaloed creates a fantasy that conforms to the protagonist’s worldview.

So we get a woman’s prison out of an Adam Sandler comedy, an assistant DA dating a woman he put in jail, commissioned salespeople willing not to be paid for the good of the team, and schemes that usually involve a very smart coyote and a very fast roadrunner.

I will allow the weird accents and chicken wing commentary, but the movie leans heavily on a Buffalo that really doesn’t exist. One of the strange things is that the entire film seems to take place in the early eighties, from the demographics of the cast to using actual paper and landlines for the debt collection. (No voip phones? No way to take a payment electronically on a debt collection? How are these debtors paying? Mailing a check?)

The characters use cell phones are there are a couple of laptops visible in the debt collection agency. Also, the TV’s are flat screens, so the film certainly is supposed to take place in modern times. But the story is right out of 1982.

The Ugly

The Ugly: One strength of The Wolf of Wall Street, for example, is that it is a realistic view of how firms like Stratton Oakmont operated. I can speak from personal experience that The Wolf of Wall Street gets the gist. The debt collection piece of Buffaloed, however, which is a fairly large section of the movie, is pure fantasy.

It really doesn’t even make any sense. Sure, you can buy twenty-year-old paper for pennies on the dollar, but good luck getting your penny back. (Or even tracking down the people). There are scenes (lots of scenes) where she gets someone to say yes on the phone, stamps the paper and calls it a day. Um, you still have to actually collect the money. Didn’t you see how these people lived? Has Glengarry Glen Ross taught you nothing?

In Conclusion

In Conclusion: As a lighthearted comedy/fantasy Buffaloed is a very pleasant time with fun performances by both Zoey Deutch, Judy Greer and Jermaine Fowler. Just don’t think too hard about it. Actually, better not to think at all.

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