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Buffalo Soldiers (2003)

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Joaquin Phoenix, Buffalo Soldiers | AMRY OF ONE Phoenix does more bad than good as a drug-dealing military clerk
AMRY OF ONE Phoenix does more bad than good as a drug-dealing military clerk

Details Limited Release: Jul 25, 2003; Rated: R; Length: 95 Minutes; Genres: Comedy, Historical, War; With: Scott Glenn, Ed Harris and Joaquin Phoenix; Distributor: Miramax

''A friend of mine asked me if I would even do the film now. And I don't know if I would.'' So says Scott Glenn of this pitch-black, military satire about rogue U.S. soldiers in 1989 Berlin using their base as a front for illegal activities. The movie premiered at the 2001 Toronto Film Festival and sold to Miramax -- on Sept. 10. Unsurprisingly, it's taken a long and bumpy route to theaters since then. A screening at January's Sundance festival signaled that the film's thematic underpinnings -- that peace is boring and people will find ways to fill that void with conflict -- have become no less controversial. ''There were people at the screening who called the film unpatriotic,'' recalls Glenn, who plays an unstable sergeant bent on bringing down Joaquin Phoenix's drug-dealing batallion clerk. ''They called me a redneck. That's fine. I am. A liberal redneck. When Stravinsky first played 'The Rite of Spring,' there was a riot outside the theater. Better to get a reaction.'' No problem there: One incensed Sundancer even lobbed a water bottle at the screen.

''I guess she wasn't bored,'' says Australian director Gregor Jordan (whose first major film, ''Two Hands,'' starred Heath Ledger). ''That woman somehow represented a movement of ignorant, belligerent people in America and throughout the world. These are people who don't want truth. They want a myopic, distorted version of the facts. These people are scary.''

Originally posted Apr 17, 2003 Published in issue #706-707 Apr 25, 2003 Order article reprints