No, you’re not making this up, this 2001 movie is the second underrated war movie to be called Buffalo Soldiers, starring the Joker himself, Joaquin Phoenix. A black comedy, the film isn’t the gripping dark drama you’d expect from Phoenix, but has a touch of his usual sly humor in a story set against the backdrop of the Cold War in Berlin. It also includes Ed Harris, Anna Paquin, Dean Stockwell, as well as early roles from Michael Peña and Idris Elba. Skipped mostly because it was a limited edition, it’s funny, touching and unsettling in equal measure.
Based on the 1993 novel by Robert O’Connor, this film focuses on SPC Ray Elwood (Phoenix), a repressed soldier stationed in West Germany in 1989, shortly before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Peacetime proves boring for Elwood, and he fills his days selling drugs, running the local black market for stolen goods, and carousing with the wife of his superior officer, Colonel Berman (Harris). But Elwood’s boring existence is turned upside down with the arrival of the sergeant. Robert E. Lee (Scott Glenn): A cold-blooded Vietnam veteran who wants to fix sleazy soldiers.
Although it received good reviews, with criticism Roger Ebert comparing it to classics like Catch-22 and M*A*S*H, the film never saw a wide release and is still an obscure and underrated war comedy that deserves its day.