Movie Review: Buffalo Boys (2013)

Directed by: Raymond Guarnieri 

Written by: Raymond Guarnieri, Elana Lott, and Mckenzie Trent

Running Time: 80 min

Release Date: August 24, 213

Cast: 

  • Paul Castro, Jr as Ian
  • Rodney Mack as Daniel ("D") 
  • Ilana Mollick as Lindsay
  • Mckenzie Trent as Mary-Ann
  • Tilke Hill as Maxine
  • Matt Tester as Chef
  • Timothy Dugan as  Bob
  • Raymond Guarnieri as Uncle Tim

In 2009, a childhood friend of director Raymond Guarnieri was murdered. He, along with Elana Lott and Mckenzie Trent, decided to explore his friend's life and write a screenplay inspired by the true events. The result is "Buffalo Boys", a coming of age tale about 15 year old Ian. At first, Ian's life seems very similar to most teenagers in this country. They like to drive cars, smoke cigarettes, and talk about girls. Ian and his girlfriend, Lindsay, like to sneak out at night to steal kisses and dream about their future. Lindsay is an ambitious teen who clearly has set high goals for her future. Ian, on the other hand, seems to be lacking in direction.

Ian and his buddies like to hang out at a private patch of woods and drink and smoke pot. One of Ian's friends, "D" or Daniel, also deals. "D" is a troubled teen from an abusive home. He is angry, impulsive, and immature. Clearly, he is in a lot of pain due to his home life and even resorts to self-mutilation. 

When Ian goes with "D" to meet his dealer, Maxine, Ian gets lured into the business by the promise of money. Maxine sees something in Ian that is missing in "D". She finds him to be smart and calm and hints that she might need him for a bigger job.

Ian's family consists of his mother, Mary-Ann, his younger brother, Pete, and his father, Bob. Mary-Ann is a hardworking woman trying to keep the peace at home. She is currently going to school in an effort to improve her family's situation. But things are made difficult by Bob who clearly favors Pete over Ian. He regularly berates Ian and undermines any ambition the boy might have by telling him that he will never amount to anything.

When Bob reveals that he is not actually Ian's father, Ian's life is changed forever. He feels betrayed and begins to push away the people who love him the most: his mother and Lindsay. In a moment of desperation, Ian decides to take Maxine up on an offer that promises to make him $10,000. Maxine wants Ian and "D" to kill her grandmother so that she can collect the life insurance money. Unfortunately, the murder does not go as planned and turns out to be much more brutal. Ian is overcome by guilt from the events of that night.  

Ian serves 23 months in a juvenile detention facility, but is able to be released early for presumably testifying against "D". When he returns to Buffalo, he finds that while he was in jail, everyone else went on with their life. Through the help of his uncle, he is able to get a job at a gas station. He begins to see Lindsay again and at first, it looks like he might be able to get his life on track. But his past comes back to haunt him when he is recognized at a party as being "the grandmother killer". 

"Buffalo Boys" is a morality tale that truly demonstrates the power of making the right decisions. As we know from the rule of Karma, what goes around comes around. Sometimes it is hard to move on and escape the mistakes of our past. In an instant, the seemingly innocent decision to go to a Halloween costume party can have deadly consequences.  

"Buffalo Boys" is a small budget independent film that is deserving of attention. The direction by Raymond Guarnieri is that of a more seasoned film-maker. The screenplay is well-written and believable. There isn't a lot of music in the film, but I liked what there was. And the editing is perfection. It is unusual to watch any film, much less that of a newcomer, and not find fault throughout. But that is not the case with "Buffalo Boys". The film is filled with unexpected camera angles and interesting use of lighting. One scene, in particular, uses colored lights and music to demonstrate the hazy altered state of drug use. Another uses timed release to show the passage of time. 

The young actor who portrays Ian is Paul Castro, Jr. I hate to draw comparisons but he reminds me very much of a young Mark Wahlberg. He is appropriately intense while demonstrating the type of restraint normally reserved for veteran actors. He is in almost all of the scenes in the film and has the talent for the job. He is another one to watch. 

Mckenzie Trent is phenomenal as the mother, Mary-Ann. She is able to portray the hardship of carrying the heavy burden of a secret that she knows could destroy her son's life. When asked to express extreme emotion, she does so without being over-the-top. She doesn't appear to be acting which just shows how well she is doing it. She is at ease on the screen and the camera loves her.  

There are a lot of good performances in this film by talented young actors. Ilana Mollick is luminous as Lindsay, the sweet and innocent girlfriend. Rodney Mack is very strong as the impulsive and angry "D". Matt Tester (also a producer) is very likable as Chef, one of Ian's friends. And one of my favorites was from the director, Raymond Guarnieri, although I will say that I did not know it was him until I checked the credits at the end. He has the very small role of the uncle, but I would suggest to him that he might want to give acting another shot. He is very good. So good, in fact, that my notes on the film are full of thoughts about his performance. 

"Buffalo Boys" is a very well-made film, especially considering that most involved are first-timers. The production team is called Better Stirfry and consists of Matt Tester, Jason Montalvo, Raymond Guarnieri, and Mckenzie Trent.  It is clear that a lot of hard work and effort went into the making of the film, and I expect to see much more from these amazing talents.  The film has already won several awards: "Best Coming of Age Film" at the 2013 Manhattan Film Festival and "Best Crime Drama" at the 2013 International Indie Gathering Film Festival in Cleveland, Ohio. They are currently awaiting the release of their film and are also looking for other options for screenings. If you are interested, please go to their website and click on "Screenings & Press".

As an added bonus, I've added some exclusive footage from the film with interviews of the cast and crew: 

Thanks for checking out my review and I hope that you'll take the time to check out this great new film. Let me know what you think by commenting below. See you  next time and GET BUZZED!!