the review site with a difference since 1999
Reviews Interviews Articles Apps About

Warner Home Video presents

Buffalo Soldiers (1997)

"When an enemy praises an enemy, the smart man listens."- Sgt. Washington Wyatt (Danny Glover)

Stars: Danny Glover, Bob Gunton, Carl Lumbly, Glynn Turman, Mykelti Williamson
Other Stars: Timothy Busfield, Lamont Bentley, Michael Warren
Director: Charles Haid

MPAA Rating: G for (some violence)
Run Time: 01h:34m:28s
Release Date: 2006-01-10
Genre: historical

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- B-BB D-


DVD Review

Following the conclusion of the Civil War, Congress passed a law that created regiments for African-American soldiers in the United States Army. These divisions were stationed across the frontier and treated with utter disdain by many of their fellow fighting men and superior officers. Buffalo Soldiers tells the story of First Sergeant Washington Wyatt (Danny Glover), the boss of the H Troop of the 10th Cavalry. Based on real-life events, the film covers their dangerous search through the bleak New Mexico landscape for the Apache warrior Vittorio. The elusive enemy's raids on the settlers must be stopped, but his conduct may not be worse than the white soldiers who appear primed to drive the Native Americans from this land.

Originally airing on TNT in December 1997, this historic western appears on DVD immediately prior to Black History Month, and its story is worth telling. However, the limited scope of the television production and too many simplified, one-note characters lessen the overall effectiveness. Glover provides an intriguing lead character who faces nearly constant insults from close-minded white officers and realizes that responding to them will accomplish nothing. His own troops also begin to lose faith in him when evidence suggests that their superiors might not be in the right. Wyatt takes everything in stride and displays a commanding presence that nearly holds the story together. Glover outshines the predictable script and keeps the dreary film from becoming too melodramatic during most of his scenes. But he can only accomplish so much in the long run, and the later moments stumble during the lengthy pursuit.

The story begins with the saddening images of Texas Rangers stringing up innocent Apaches in hopes of acquiring information about Vittorio. Luckily, the Buffalo Soldiers arrive in time to save the day and apprehend the rangers, but their heroism seems a bit too obvious and lacks much depth. The early moments immediately spotlight Myketli Williamson as Corporal William Christy, who delivers a much-needed strong supporting role. However, the talented actor isn't given much to do in the overall story, which places most of the burden on Glover. He performs well, but the lack of enough notable characters makes things more difficult. The few amicable officers include Bob Gunton (The Shawshank Redemption) as Colonel Grierson, an outspoken guy with little love for the army's brutal activities. Gunton plays against type and displays some impressive range, which keeps his character from becoming too simple. On the other hand, Tom Bower chews up scenery as General Pike and depicts a caricature that destroys every scene that he occupies. One cruel, violent action during the night from his character receives only passing attention, which unfairly lessens its importance.

Buffalo Soldiers covers plenty of complex themes, including the conflict between the African-American soldiers' allegiance to the army and their misgivings about killing members of another maltreated minority. Wyatt tries to hide his thoughts by injecting tremendous energy into the search, but unnecessary deaths within the regiment start to raise doubts. The script delves into this theme, but it uses extremely obvious moments to underscore the points, including the death of a major character and Vittorio's unlikely appearance. The final moments play out as expected and provide a fairly satisfactory ending, but the emotional aspects fail to draw us into the tale. Action scenes happen quickly and without warning, and the story moves along quickly, but it lacks the extra complexity needed to raise it above being an average television movie.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Buffalo Soldiers utilizes its original full-frame transfer taken from the initial television airing, and the results correlate to expectations for this type of release. The amount of grain is minor, which is a positive element, but the image could be much sharper. The colors look fine, but they lack the brightness and pristine clarity offered in the better DVD releases. Considering the source material, this transfer performs well, but a little bit of remastering could have helped considerably.

Image Transfer Grade: B

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: This release offers the standard 2.0-channel Dolby Surround audio, which is pretty limited in scope. The sounds emanating from the front speakers are clear enough and present the dialogue effectively. However, the action scenes would have been helped by a more complex transfer. Its power and depth are good enough to present the story, but they are missing the extra touches required to create an immersive experience.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: This disc contains no extra features besides the typical chapter cues and English, French, and Spanish subtitles.

Extras Grade: D-

Final Comments

Buffalo Soldiers depicts a valuable true story that could form the basis of a compelling film, but it takes the easier route and skirts along the tougher issues. Too many of the characters are one-sided and donít seem real, which makes it less exciting to follow the story. The overall tale is mildly interesting, but it falls short of providing an inspiring experience.

Dan Heaton 2006-01-31