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American Buffalo

Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Dennis Franz
Director: Michael Corrente
Genre: Drama
Year: 1996
Rating: 2 / 5

Dennis Franz, one of today's best and brightest television stars. Dennis Hoffman, one of the most respected film stars of his generation. One would think that the acting muscle these two carry would be enough to propel what is essentially a character study, but that would be an erroneous assumption. Michael Corrente's American Buffalo, adapted from the David Mamet play, might be a wonderful stage production, but it makes for an almost intolerable hour and a half of film-making. It does not help that the two main stars do not play likeable characters, but, then again, even that might not have been enough to save this excessively boring piece of work.

Don (Dennis Franz) is a small town pawn shop owner who stays up all night playing cards, only to wake up every morning and sit in his store with longtime friend Teach (Dustin Hoffman). To say that traffic at this pawn shop is light is an understatement, as the only other person who makes an appearance at Don's shop is Bobby (Sean Nelson), a neighborhood kid who does odd jobs for Don. Don's shop is of the rundown variety, nestled in a quiet part of a quiet town. Not that Don or Teach seem to mind, as they see perfectly content watching the hours tick away from each day. (Not coincidentally, viewers of this film perform a similar sort of clock-watching.)

A couple days prior to the film's onset, Don apparently made a sale of an American buffalo nickel to an interested customer. While Don was able to wrangle ninety dollars from its buyer, Don nonetheless comes away feeling that he has been had. If the buyer would hand over ninety dollars so quickly, he would surely have conjured up five times that much, or so Don believes. What follows is an attempt by Don to either acquire more such coins, or to reacquire the coin in question from the allegedly unguarded home of its new owner. He spends the remainder of the movie reiterating the importance of this coin and plotting, first with Bobby and then with Teach, the possible retrieval of it.

American Buffalo occurs in the span on twenty-four hours, primarily in Don's pawn shop. The occasional scene is filmed right outside of the shop, but that is the extent of it. These three characters are the sole inhabitants of this world, and none represent compelling studies. I spent the entire film waiting for something - anything! - to happen, yet nothing ever did. I do not fault actors Dennis Franz (NYPD Blue) and Dustin Hoffman (Rain Man) for taking on such roles, for in today's film-making arena, rarely do actors get the opportunity to control the film like they do here. These two simply do not have enough to work with in this instance. While I have never seen it as such, I do believe American Buffalo could succeed as a play, but it simply does not have the drive or the energy to captivate a film viewer. It ends up being about as exciting as watching the Weather Channel.

Dustin Hoffman..........Teach
Dennis Franz..........Don
Sean Nelson..........Bobby

Certification: Rated R for language.
Running Time: 88 minutes.

Additional Info: Internet Movie Database
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