Buffalo ’66

Released:  1998

Cast:  Vincent Gallo, Christina Ricci, Ben Gazzara, Mickey Rourke, Rosanna Arquette, Jan-Michael Vincent, Anjelica Huston

SUMMARY:  Buffalo native Billy Brown (Vincent Gallo) places a large bet on a Buffalo Bills football game, but loses:  when he is unable to cover his debt, his bookie (Mickey Rourke) offers him a deal.  A friend of the bookie’s is accused of a crime and faces jail time; if Billy confesses to the crime and serves the prison sentence, his debt will be forgiven.  Billy agrees to do this, but does not tell his parents what is really going on.  Instead, he says that he has gotten a government job that will take him away for a long time.  He also arranges, in advance, for a friend to send cards on various holidays.  Five years later, Billy is released from prison and decides to go home for a visit.  However, there is another problem:  Billy told his parents that he was married, and his mother is demanding to meet his wife.  At a dance studio Billy meets Layla (Christina Ricci) in the hallway, and kidnaps her to act as his wife.  Billy doesn’t have any way of forcing Layla to stay with him, but she agrees to help him out.  She makes a terrific impression on his mother Jan (Anjelica Huston) and father Jim (Ben Gazzara), but angers Billy by creating a wild story about how they met — and by telling his parents that she’s pregnant.  Layla also notices that Billy’s parents do not have much pride or faith in their son.  After leaving the Brown house, Billy and Layla go to the local bowling alley, where Billy is something of a legend.  Layla notices a woman’s photo inside Billy’s locker, but he refuses to elaborate on it.

Unbeknownst to Layla, Billy has another plan for the evening.  His bet on the Bills game failed when their field goal kicker, Scott Wood, missed the game-winner.  While in prison, Billy swore to his friend Goon (the one who sent the cards) that he would find Wood and kill him.  He know begins to look for Wood, and learns that the man runs a strip club.  However, he will not be at the club until 2 in the morning.  Billy and Layla leave the bowling alley and go to a Denny’s.  They are shocked to see the woman from the photo appear in the same diner.  She also recognizes Billy, but it becomes clear that while he idolized her in school, she barely noticed him.  Layla tries to persuade Billy that this girl doesn’t matter, but he angrily snaps at her.  Without anything to do until 2:00, he and Layla get a room at a nearby motel.  Layla makes repeated advances, but Billy repeatedly rebuffs them.  However, they eventually fall asleep cuddled up on the bed together.  At 2:00 Billy wakes up and prepares to leave:  he tells Layla that he is going out for coffee, and will be back soon.  She senses that something is off, and makes him promise to come back.  As he walks out of the door, she tells him that she loves him.  Billy travels to the strip club and calls Goon before going in.  He tells Goon that he can have the contents of the bowling locker; Goon also senses that something is off, and begs Billy not to do anything bad.  Inside, Billy finds Wood.  He walks up to the man, pulls out the gun, and shoots Wood in the head; he then shoots himself in the head, as well.  Billy’s parents are shown at his grave, but his mother is listening to a football game and his father is complaining about being hungry.  The events then roll back, revealing them to be Billy’s anticipation of what will happen.  In reality, he has not drawn the gun, and he now turns and walks away.  Outside, he calls Goon and tells him that he is taking back his locker contents, and that he has met a girl who loves him.  He then returns to the motel room where Layla is waiting for him.

MY TAKE:  Vincent Gallo wrote the story, co-wrote the screenplay, directed, and starred in this movie:  he also wrote and performed a lot of the music.  For that reason, it’s impressive, because few people are so talented at that many things.  However, I thought the actual movie was less than impressive, because it didn’t have a great story.  Some of Billy’s background is provided, but not tons:  we know that his childhood was unhappy, the girl he liked in school didn’t pay attention to him, and he places large amounts of money on the early-90s-era Bills (the same Bills who lost four consecutive Super Bowls).  Apparently, all of this has made him into a very guarded person, almost to an extreme:  he doesn’t want to be touched in any way, and resents any attempt to get to know him.  He didn’t actually commit the crime he served five years for — didn’t commit any crime at all — but upon getting out, he kidnaps Layla.  However, “kidnap” is a rather liberal word, as he really doesn’t have any way of forcing her to stay with him, or of controlling her.  She chooses to stay with him.  Personally, I think she has Stockholm Syndrome, because he was not very nice to her for a good chunk of the movie.  I guess the moral of the story is that Billy ultimately finds something that works and that makes him happy, though it came from where he least expected.  Not really sure about that, though.

RATING:  Weird.


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