Frank Ritz’s review published on Letterboxd:
There is no logical reason why I love this movie as much as I do, but it’s so damn spectacular I just really don’t care. Vincent Gallo’s debut magnum opus blends so many different styles and ideas, and employs such a wide variety of cinematic techniques, as well as awe-inspiring plot construction, that it’s hard to find issues within Buffalo 66 (a few *moments* but nothing substantial).
Everything that is set-up from literally the opening image is wrapped up by the end, in a perfectly constructed narrative that is quite a strange journey. Billy Brown is still that lonely boy trapped inside the picture at the start (7 years old with his dog Bingo), and what the movie is really about, is him coming to terms with his past, so he can change his future. Finally taking a moment to accept responsibility for himself, and not pass blame onto his parents, or the bookie, or Goon, or Scott Wood, or even all those people who just wouldn’t let him go pee. Sure, this is done in a strangely heterosexual, overly aggressive, male “fantasy” by kidnapping a young girl who just so happens to be exactly what he needs, but there’s something so mystically strong about Layla, and something so baffling weak about Billy that I think it ultimately works.
After the initial kidnapping, there isn’t a moment where Layla isn’t in control. She has so many opportunities to run, to call attention to her situation, to just leave Billy behind, but she doesn’t. This is what she wants, even more than Billy. She seems disconnected with her own reality, probably in search of a change herself; we find her dressed up so inherently different than everyone else in her dance class, and having odd little mannerisms, and obviously she’s willing to go along with such an absurd plan, shows that Layla functions outside of the real world. Maybe she’s just a manifestation of Gallo’s, or maybe even Billy’s, mind, and either way it still works. The movie is a love story ultimately, but it’s also about redemption, and breaking through years of psychological damage to Just accept who you really are.
Vincent Gallo plays Billy Brown to such an exemplary degree it’s frightening. He’s both hostile, and fragile in the same moments, like a wounded animal being trapped in a corner. He’ll ask for help like a child, and the next second be berating you down. He creates lies upon lies to make himself look better, and yet, he is aware of his bullshit. I don’t think you’re supposed to like Billy, because well, he’s pretty fucking unlikeable, but by the end, you understand everything about him, and those final moments just bring such an overwhelming amount of emotion, that wouldn’t be possible if there wasn’t some inkling of humanity in Billy. Vincent Gallo is as talented in front of the camera as he is behind it.
There’s an almost uncountable number of quotable lines; “Is this a shifter car? I don’t know how to drive a shifter car. What the FUCK is going on?” “We’re Just spanning time” “will you hold me for a second? *goes to hold him* DONT TOUCH ME” “Don’t start” and my favorite, “The bathroom’s closed, sir”. The movie is perversely hilarious as much as it is unbearably uncomfortable. And on top of it’s great quotes there are also individual scenes that should be marveled at. The introduction of Billy’s character is something I’ve never seen replicated to such a haunting degree; being released from prison and then having boxes appear on top of him, some with photos, some with video, to just give a quick dreadful feeling of what he just went through. The search for the bathroom. The scene in the car after he does pee. The parents. Lip-syncing Ben Gazzara. The bowling alley. Layla’s Tap Dance. Wendy Balsam interaction. The bath. The kiss. The strip club - Heart of the Sunrise! The end. Is that everything? Might as well be.
Gallo has made such a unique film that it stands on an island of originality. Sure, there are obvious odes and influences, but the meshing creates an experience unlike anything else. From fast zooms, to aerial shots exposing the emptiness of the world, to the reversal film stock used, to the beautiful art direction, jump cuts, surreal sequences blended in without much explanation, a practical effect that’s the equivalent to Bullet Time; there’s so much more. This is such a strong barring of Gallo’s soul, and I just don’t get how more people don’t at least appreciate it, because it’s so meticulously well crafted at the very least. And again, the script, everything just flows so seamlessly. The “plot” of the movie concludes halfway through, and the second half Just deals with these characters development, and in doing so we realize, that was always the point. No filler, only the goods.
I’ll defend this movie till the day I die. And I’m already itching to go back.