Written by: Brian Sacca
Starring: Zoey Deutch, Judy Greer, Jermaine Fowler, Noah Reid, Jai Courtney
Debt collectors have never garnered the best reputation amongst professions. Their calls are a reminder of a time when someone borrowed money they did not have to pay for something they could afford. Many emotions run through when people look at their past debts, with shame probably being close to the top. Now, some debt collectors do their job properly while many more take on some despicable actions in order to get the money they need, and Buffaloed shows how low this level of depravity can go.
Having always been slick with her financial knowledge and motivation, Peggy (Zoey Deutch) finds trouble in finding the right scheme for her to never have to worry about money again. Time after time she gets in trouble, but her sales skills allow her to thrive in the game of debt collection, where she learns about the scummy practices used by those in this profession.
The glorious success of Buffaloed begins and ends with Zoey Deutch, who puts in a spellbinding performance as the frantic Peggy. Starting with an in media res moment, it proves she’s not messing about with this character. Peggy always wanted to find a way to get ahead financially, drawing inspiration from her family’s struggles, which has them eating wings on a regular basis. As she grows up, she utilizes any means possible to make a buck, including when she scalped tickets to Buffalo Bills games. Her incredible skill in selling people lends her well to be a debt collector when she manages to sell a collector that specifically calls her. She found her calling and immediately finds success but she knows she can do this on her own. Deutch goes all-in with the wackiness of this role, as she lets loose in the strangeness of Peggy, while also delivering what can make her endearing even to her biggest enemies. A complete lightning rod surging throughout the entire story and she makes it work even when the film stumbles.
While Deutch completely owns every second of this film, it also provides some good insight into the world of debt collection. The experience most people have with them comes from receiving a call about an outstanding debt, but Buffaloed shows the horrifying methods they have the power to use in order to make people pay off their debts. The film goes over how the initial debt holders sell off any debts they feel will not be worth collecting with the resources necessary versus the likelihood of the person paying. They do not see it as a good use of time but these debt collection agencies make it their entire business model where they can harass people into paying off the debt in some sinister ways. With so many Americans living in debt, the relevance of this film certainly stands firm and the way the whole process gets presented is aggressively entertaining.
The comedic force of Deutch’s performance meshes well with the over the top sequence of events occurring in the film. I’m sure the debt collection game has its wild parts, but what occurs in Buffaloed is pure lunacy. Any challenge to the establishment signifies a war, which Peggy finds herself trying to battle. The degree to which the rivals try to tarnish each other reaches a line I never thought the film would reach, but they are debt collectors after all. It becomes a battle of territory and power just like what would be seen in gangster movies, which pushes the balance of believability versus entertainment that Buffaloed handles very nicely. Those ridiculous moments add to the comedy and show how unwilling Peggy will be to lay down and allow these bullies to get in the way of her reaching financial success.
As the film continues, Peggy’s knowledge about finances continues to expand, which brings up the question of what she can possibly achieve by working in a legal and ethical practice in order to make money. She knows how to hustle and play with people, which makes her perfect to climb up the ladder in corporate America, but she continually gets bogged down on these schemes that land her in legal and financial trouble. While debt collecting is not illegal, some of the practices utilized in order to get the money reaches into the illicit and loses any sort of moral standing.
Buffaloed begins by defining what the term means as a verb and allows the city of Buffalo to be the setting and play directly into the story. As someone who has never been to the northern city, learning they actually love their wings and buffalo sauce was very informative. Heck, Peggy even has the head of a buffalo mounted in her home, which shows a level of dedication I did not think was possible for identifying with a city. It goes to show exactly the tone and story structure this film throws at the audience. Abrasive in most parts and also touching in others, it sheds light on the scum of the debt industry, gives the always wonderful Judy Greer a paycheck, and allows Zoey Deutch to completely let loose in this unhinged and determined role.