'Buffaloed' Review: Zoey Deutch Is A Star In A Zippy Crime Dramedy [Tribeca]

Zoey Deutch is poised to be the next movie star. The actress showed signs of potential in the workplace rom-com Set It Up, but in Buffaloed, her natural breezy charisma is put on full blast. With director Tanya Wexler lending the crime dramedy a zippy, irreverent flair, Buffaloed becomes the vehicle for which Deutch can finally show off her chops.

Deutch stars in Buffaloed as Peg Dahl, an ex-con who is looking for a steady gig after being released from jail, where she had landed for a scalping scheme. Upon being hounded by a debt collector for Ivy League tuition money that she can't pay back, she haggles her way behind the desk and quickly becomes the company's most effective collector. But, desperate to raise herself up from her blue-collar existence, Peg aims even higher — breaking from the Wiznuski debt collecting agency run by Wizz (a deliciously slimy Jai Courtney) and starting her own collector group populated by fellow misfits.

Buffaloed moves at breakneck speed, led with aplomb by Deutch, who is absolutely magnetic onscreen as the fast-talking, fourth-wall breaking Peg. The film is as much an indictment of the debt industry as it is a raucous black comedy, with Peg breaking into frequent asides in which she explains the intricacies of debt in Powerpoint form. While Wexler's stylish approach to these fourth-wall breaks are fun and brisk, they don't have quite the scathing wit as The Big Short, mainly because Buffaloed seems to take such delight in Peg's maneuvering of the debt collecting community. Because as many style and thematic cues that Buffaloed takes from Adam McKay's Oscar-winning movie, Wexler is more interested in Peg and her struggles.

Peg is all swagger and overconfidence, which belies her quiet desperation to get out of the dire economic situation she is stuck in — her mother (Judy Greer) is a hair dresser who operates out of their home, her family is thousands of dollars in debt, and her brother (Noah Reid) owns a bar that is barely keeping afloat. She finds some solace in the arms of Graham (Jermaine Fowler), the young prosecutor who put her in jail but becomes infatuated with her, despite her seedy connections to the debt-collecting world.

Apart from Deutch, Courtney is a standout as the skeevy "kingpin" of the debt collecting world, giving a frequently hilarious, often sinister performance that makes him a formidable antagonist against Peg when she declares war on his debt-collecting agency. Greer is always wonderful too, adding a touch of weariness to Peg's caring but no-nonsense mother who can't understand her daughter's fixation on debt collection.

Buffaloed wields its black comedic tone like a weapon, but doesn't know quite where to aim it. The town of Buffalo, New York, is a forgotten enclave full of working-class people struggling in a dead-end economy, but the film mostly glosses it over — apart from a few gritty, back-alley deals and the cluttered houses and offices, which the characters frequent. Peg espouses the pivotal Buffalo slogan of "food, football, and finance," but for the most part, Buffalo is the backdrop to the characters' frenzied shenanigans. There's a timeless quality to the film, with barely a smartphone in sight and an abundant use of cord phones, but not necessarily anything that anchors it to Buffalo — though perhaps the feeling that this could take place in any downtrodden New England town lends to the film's universality.

While Buffaloed's direction and pacing can at times be a little scattered, Wexler's stylish, boisterous direction and the cast's energetic performances elevate the film. Most importantly, Buffaloed signals a bright future for its star Zoey Deutch, who is the star that sells the hell out of this wry, entertaining movie.

/Film Rating: 7.5 out of 10