The landscapes of Indonesia seem to be quite a good setting to create an oriental western. Last year we saw director Mouly Surya’s superb Marlina, the Murderer in Four Acts (2017) which played on the conventions of the most American of genres.

With Buffalo Boys, the tale of two brothers coming back to Java, after forced exile in the American West, to fight the Dutch East India Company bloody Lords, local producer turned (first time) director, Mike Wiluan, mixes western situations with guns, swords and fistfights action, folk legends and (partial) historical revision. Consequently the opening comes with a warning stating that usually most tales of local folklore cuts out the excessive cruelty of the invader. In Buffalo Boys facts and fiction apparently collide. So it says.

Whether it is a proper choice of schemes or not can be left to the audience to decide as violent historical facts, especially in an action vehicle, can be hazardous to handle properly.  Action is well choreographed, with efficient use of the landscapes, Australian DOP John Radel provides the goods. Passed the uneven acting,  we get our share of entertainment value.

But, whilst  Buffalo Boys shows promises in granting some girl power (historically accurate or not) in its early part, whenever the men (good or bad guys) really do mean dirty business in the later parts, these female characters suddenly fade and become bit parts of exploitative cinema rather than the active part they should be, screenplay-wise, thus sending a simplistic and confusing message on the intentions of the screenwriters, despite the fact it is shaped on a pretty basic storyline.

Its flaws on dramas does not sink Buffalo Boys, as a pretty fair and well handled action flick, but we can’t help to question ourselves about the outcome if the screenplay was more rewarding.

Saturday, July 14th , 7:15 M – Concordia University Hall Theatre

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