Buffalo ’66 (1998)

“Billy Brown just got out of jail. Now he’s going to serve some real time. He’s going home.” Spoiler alert! Vincent Gallo stars as Billy Brown, a lonely, demented loser who has just been released from the state pen for a crime he didn’t commit (he took the rap for a friend of his bookie in order to pay off a delinquent bet). It’s obvious at the outset of the film that the gods have somehow conspired against this guy. For instance, Brown spends the first 15 minutes of the film desperately trying to find a decent place to take a piss. He then kidnaps a young tap dancer by the name of Layla (Christina Ricci) to pose as his wife so he can pay a visit to his eccentric parents (played by screen veterans Anjelica Huston and Ben Gazzara). It seems the folks never found out their son was in the clink all these years; Ricci tells them he is a high-level employee of the CIA who has been on “an overseas assignment.” [In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Gallo stated, “Those characters are not exaggerations of my parents. My parents are exaggerations of those characters.”] For the rest of the film, Brown’s relationship with Layla deepens as he plots revenge against the man he believes sent him to the big house, a former field goal kicker (now a strip club owner) who shagged the ball wide right during the final play of the Super Bowl. The setting is vintage Buffalo—a bleak world of bowling alleys, grease-filled diners and sleazy strip bars. In Buffalo 66, Gallo plays it like an escapee from a Jim Jarmusch or David Lynch flick. He’s wide-eyed, unpredictable, unshaven and sloppily dressed. You can tell he doesn’t give a shit about his image. Some critics have complained about the movie’s “uneven” and “unfocused” appearance, but I actually preferred some of the more bizarre moments such as when Gazzara lip-synches to an old ’40s, Sinatra-style album (which is actually the voice of Gallo’s real-life father, according to the closing titles). Gallo also directed the film and wrote the script.

Useless Trivia: Look for Mickey Rourke in a cameo as “The Bookie” and Jan-Michael Vincent as “Sonny.”

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