Zoey Deutch’s star has risen over the past several years thanks to her work in high profile projects (Netflix’s The Politician and the underrated flicks Before I Fall and Flower). With Buffaloed, Deutch goes for broke in an absolutely knockout performance, and thankfully she has a brisk and first rate narrative to support her work.
Peg Dahl (Zoey Deutch) is obsessed with making money, and though she is diligent in her pursuits, she often ends up on the wrong side of the law. She’s much smarter than she gives herself credit for, but since she doesn’t have enough money to pay for an Ivy League education, Peg resorts to scamming people for the almighty dollar. Mother Kathy (Judy Greer) has supported her two children by conducting a hair salon out of their ramshackle house and Peg’s brother JJ (Noah Reid) is far from the enterprising sort (he’s simply a laid back guy, which isn’t such a bad thing).
After a stint in jail, Peg lands a gig as a debt collector (Buffalo is supposedly the debt collection capital of the U.S.), but her boss Wizz (Jai Courtney) is a downright scumbag. Her co-workers mainly consist of ex-convicts and straight up jerks, so it’s no surprise when Peg strikes it out on her own.
Throughout the film we see Peg’s struggles at maintaining her own debt collection agency while also trying to fend off Wizz and his meatheads. Jermaine Fowler is Graham, an attorney who becomes enamored of Peg, even though he knows being romantically involved with Peg could compromise his job.
Director Tanya Wexler (Hysteria), working from Brian Sacca’s witty script, keeps the proceedings light even amidst some of the film’s darker moments. Wexler also doesn’t veer off from Peg’s story and waste our time with other subplots, giving us an up close and personal look at Peg’s triumphs and seemingly devastating failures.
Meanwhile, Peg is not an overly sentimental or insightful person, as making money for herself and family (while also sticking it to whoever gets in her way) is her driving ambition. There is no time for self reflection in Peggy’s pressure filled life in Buffalo, and thankfully when the story heads towards a sappy moment, Wexler places us right back on track.
There are several choice moments when Buffaloed can get heavy handed, but thankfully we are not hit over the head about the perils of debt and its collectors. Wexler is much more interested in showing us the misadventures of Peg Dahl, a fearless woman who has sustained her share of indignities (while dealing out a bit of pain herself). It was a bit of a gamble to not tug on our heart strings, but Buffaloed’s overall lack of giving two f**ks absolutely works.
Buffaloed detractors may complain of story’s breezy approach to Peg’s crimes and debt collectors in general, but I was immediately hooked into Peg Dahl’s hyper real real universe. Zoey Deutch is a pure force of nature, and it’s a role that was tailor made for her diverse skill set. As much as I appreciate Jai Courtney as a leading man (which includes the overlooked Semper Fi and The Exception), he always kills it as a villain (check out Jack Reacher for proof). Although Wizz is more of an intended caricature than a real, actualized human being, Courtney is absolutely convincing as a total a**hole.
I liked Buffaloed so much that I’m even considering becoming a Buffalo Bills fan, as long as Peg Dahl doesn’t collect on my debts.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Buffaloed is now playing in theaters.