Zoey Deutch, Jai Courtney, Judy Greer
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Zoey Deutch maintained a prolific run in the 2010s, but between the cloying Before I Fall, the aggressively pointless Why Him?, or even her turn in Zombieland: Double Tap which dragged the rest of the production down with her, she’s been in need of room to stretch her legs. And in the most seemingly-unlikely of places, she seems to have found just that with Buffaloed.
The film literally starts with Deutch screaming “Fuck!”, an immediate set up for her underdog hustler Peg (nicknamed Pegger, a fitting moniker for a woman dominating men at their own game). While still showing a level of warmth and sweetness, she is also apt at straight-faced intimidation and street smarts that is quite phenomenal to watch unfold.
Deutch isn’t the only one here who has landed a saving throw, as Jai Courtney’s portrayal of the hilariously pretentious debt collector Wizz shows that he’s definitely balancing out his own collection of dud script picks over the last decade.
Speaking of scripts, the very Wolf Of Wall Street style of predatory finance in this story (with Brian Sacca featuring in both films), is given a more sideways take on bloodthirsty commerce, embodied through its main character’s actions, with Pegger shown as the china doll in the debt collection bullpen.
With her motto of “Fine is like mediocrity’s dumb cousin”, following Pegger’s arc from childhood, to her stint in prison, to her hiring of fellow sideways hustlers (phone sex operators, spruikers, prosperity evangelists, etc.), is engrossing stuff.
It also carves out its own niche within the larger trend of female-led crime dramas, as it directly asks a question that most of the others seem to dance around: Is it really possible to succeed in this male-dominated business without having to resort to their methods? And as we see with Pegger’s conflicts with her mother Kathy (Judy Greer in prime maternal form), lawyer Graham (Jermaine Fowler), and even herself, the expected fall from success becomes a vivid depiction of just how vicious this industry is. This is aided by the inclusion of real-world numbers, a few fourth-wall breaks, and even Big Short-esque jargon skewering, to make the reality of it all that much more apparent.
While it doesn’t necessarily rise above its competition, Buffaloed shows more than enough of its own flavour, emotion and redemptive acting pedigree to stand alongside them. May this truly mean the start of better things for Deutch and Courtney, as they’ve been deserving of better for a long time now.