Matt’s review published on Letterboxd:
The film opens with an old photograph of our protagonist, Billy Brown, as a child with his puppy. Immediately after there is a time jump to Billy as an adult, and he is released from prison. We quickly learn how much of a despicable piece of shit Billy is - he’s overtly aggressive towards everyone no matter how nice they are, short-tempered, impulsive, violent, misogynistic, and unpredictable. It comes as no surprise someone like this would end up in prison. The woman he kidnaps, Layla, continuously reiterates how good and sweet Billy is. Naturally we assume she’s saying all this as a means to save herself from potentially getting hurt or even killed by him.
But as the story unfolds and the layers of Billy are peeled back we begin to sympathize with him. Billy, while despicable on the surface, is nothing more than a broken man whose been abused, betrayed, and neglected all his life. He’s filled with anger and hate, projecting his feelings onto everyone else. He assumes all people are like this and nobody truly understands him, because abuse, betray, and neglect are all he’s known his whole life. Layla isn’t bullshitting him, she sees right through him. She’s quite literally an angel, thrown into his life as his savior from his self-destructive path.
The character work here is astounding. Gallo’s ability to get the audience to deeply sympathize with such a despicable character is nearly on par with Scorsese’s ability to do the same. The stylistic filmmaking here is bold & immaculate, and the tone is impeccable - capturing that melancholic feeling brilliantly better than most other films. The drastic tonal shift at the end is handled with such precise care, and it actually feels earned. It very easily could’ve ended up hammy and forced.
Buffalo ’66 is an incredible film, certainly an all-timer. It’s been probably over a month since I’ve seen a film this great.