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Buffaloed

Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
Buffaloed Movie Poster Image
Debt-collection comedy annoys but informs; strong language.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 95 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Educates viewers about unfair, unregulated, often unethical nature of debt collections business. Film is about greed and earning money at cost of causing others misery and hardship. The angle is sympathetic to those in debt and highlights stories about unfair circumstances rather than those who are in debt due to spending more than they can pay back.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Peg strives to not be defined by her circumstances. She's smart, entrepreneurial, perseveres to start a business in a tough, male-dominated industry, fighting sexism, giving employment to ex-convicts, eventually trying to do a "dirty" job in a legal, positive way. But she also consistently makes impulsive, often illegal decisions that negatively affect her life and lives of her employees and family. Challenges racial stereotypes by having White criminals and a Black district attorney who strongly follows the rule of law. It's also pointed out how traditional gender roles are reversed in a dating situation, with the woman asking the man out, making the first move, initiating sex. 

Violence

Fistfights and bar brawls. Several scenes in which someone is sucker punched. Gun used to threaten an enemy. Arguing, yelling. Destruction of property.

Sex

Adults who are dating are shown in bed together in their underwear; in another scene, they make plans to have sex. Visuals/references to men giving unwanted embraces, with the women promptly speaking up for it to stop. Sexual jokes surround a supporting character who's a former prostitute and another who runs a "massage parlor."

Language

Lots of strong language, including "ass," "balls," "bitch," "d--k," "douche bag," "crap," "f--k," "goddamn," "s--t," "t-ts," "tw-t." Characters frequently call each other "jagoff." The bird is flipped.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Cigarettes smoked/seen frequently; a woman smokes, a teen sells cigarettes at school, and cigarettes are used as currency in jail. Two men smoke pot while sitting inside a car. Characters, both good and bad, drink -- a sympathetic character owns a bar. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Buffaloed is a comedy about the debt collection business. It portrays the industry as sleazy, unethical, and corrupt and those who carry debt as victims. Zoey Deutch stars as Peg Dahl, a resourceful hustler who sees money as freedom. But her pursuit of cash actually has the opposite result, at least at first: She goes for the quick buck and winds up paying the price. As a young woman in a male-dominated industry, Peg perseveres through a lot of sexist behavior. Her competitors seem to be mobsters, and she's in the crosshairs of vengeful acts and violence (there's a lot of yelling, getting punched in the face, and property destruction). Characters smoke/sell cigarettes, but smoking isn't glamorized. A bar is a key setting, and characters drink frequently -- but it's made clear there's no drinking and driving. The characters are quite foul-mouthed; expect lots of swearing ("s--t," "f--k," "jagoff," and more). Adults are shown in bed together in their underwear and make plans to have sex.

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What's the story?

In BUFFALOED, debt has followed Peg Dahl's (Zoey Deutch) family ever since her father died. She makes it her life's mission to stop being poor and start being rich, but she runs into some legal issues along the way. Still, she's determined to get out of debt, even if that means getting others to pay off theirs.

Is it any good?

This comedy is as brash, obnoxious, and in your face as its main character, Peg: a scam artist who's desperate to pull herself out of poverty. Peg is always trying to pay off her debt, whether it's her family's bills, college tuition, or her debt to society. She's whip-smart but impulsive, and she bulldozes ahead with ignorant certainty rather than deep consideration of what the consequences of her actions might be, willing to operate in the margins of legality. And yet, there are reminders throughout the film that Peg is trying to thrive in a sexist world. Is Peg destined to fail because she's a woman, because she's careless, or because she lacks integrity? 

The film's title is as unsubtle as Peg and her nemesis, Wiz (Jai Courtney, wearing a constant snarl). It piles up and cycles all the definitions and stereotypes of "buffalo" -- the bison-like animal, the act of intimidating through power, and, of course, the city that Peg wants to escape (and that, per the movie, apparently has nothing more to offer than Buffalo Wings and the Buffalo Bills). The characters are largely unlikeable. Debt lord Wiz feels like every superhero's "first" villain: big and cartoonishly dumb, to be clocked and countered within seconds before moving on to the bigger threat. Perhaps that's why Peg underestimates Wiz -- but, then, that's the point. Buffaloed isn't a Hollywood story; it's an Upstate New York story. There's so much frustrating injustice here because, often, people like Wiz have the experience to know the loopholes of the law. But while the characters in Buffaloed can be annoying, there's a lot to digest here. Peg's lifelong ambition is to "stop being poor and start being rich," but the cards are stacked against those who exist in a cycle of poverty, where it can seem like the only way to break out is to break the law. The film has a satisfying conclusion, but the ending doesn't provide a call to action or even an intent to cause outrage, rather, a slumped-shoulders sigh as it points to how the odds are stacked against the regular person who, so often, is just trying to get by and do the right thing.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about America's debt crisis and some of the reasons why so many Americans are trying to manage debt. Do you think the portrayal of the debt collectors and their practices is accurate or exaggerated? Do you think creating a fictional film to inform viewers about potentially dry subject matter is effective?

  • How does Buffaloed capture the inescapable feeling of the cycle of poverty? How does poverty lead to higher incarceration rates?

  • When Peg starts her own debt collection business, is she targeted "for war" because she's young and female, or do you think that an older male would have been treated the same way?

  • Peg has grit: She's perseverant and resilient. How did she use those character strengths to her advantage? Do you agree with her choices and methods? 

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