Buffalo 66 (1997): Vincent Gallo’s Interesting Directing Debut

Lions Gate

Sundance Film Fest–Actor Vincent Gallo makes an interesting but flawed feature directing debut with “Buffalo 66,” an intermittently imaginative and provocative but ultimately narcissistic and self-indulgent look at a troubled guy still bearing the emotional effects of an unhappy upbringing.  By turns satirical and romantic, with touches of pain and humor, “Buffalo ’66” premiered at the 1997 Sundance Film Fest in the dramatic competition series.


Better known as an actor (“Palookaville,” Abel Ferrara’s “The Funeral”) and model (Calvin Klein ads), Gallo has recruited a good cast for his bizarre tale of a sociopath, which struggles throughout for establishing the right mood. Gallo plays Billy Brown, a scrawny pal with pointed nose and sharp chin, who wears flared flood pants, red faux-leather disco boots, and tight top.  When “Buffalo ’66” opens, Billy’s fresh out of jail and on his way to the house of his parents (Ben Gazzara and Anjelica Huston).  Before going in the joint for five years due to a botched $10,000 bet on the Buffalo Bills, Billy told his parents he was married to a beautiful woman and worked in a secure government job.  Upon his release, he kidnaps Layla (Christina Ricci), a sweet tap dancer and forces her to pretend she’s his companion.


After a meeting with his family, the pair split up while Billy goes in search of the Bills place-kicker, who lost that bet for him. But the crux of the narrative is his reconciliation with his childhood and his search for love and redemption.  Billy’s mother has never forgiven him for being born during the Buffalo Bill’s only Super Bowl win, and his old man couldn’t care less about him.   Though his parents have ignored him all their lives, he still craves their love and approval, and now hopes to impress them by bringing home his beautiful wife.


Gallo packs the film with odd flourishes that detract from the main storyline, but add color to the story, such as his father crooning an old love song to Layla, or Billy’s mildly retarded buddy Goon (Kevin Corrigan) who wants to be called Rocky.


Gallo and his cinematography Lance Acord use color in what’s more like film noir, expressing the blend of grit and romanticism in striking images found in impersonal urban settings.  The early scenes display a scary, paranoid realism before switching to a more farcical mood, when Billy and Layla visit his parents, who comes across as caricatures.


Like many first films, “Buffalo 66” is self-indulgent (just note how long a time it takes Billy to find a place to urinate), and personal, perhaps conveying Gallo’s innermost obsessions and anxieties (we get the feeling that he’s terrified of sex).