Since the beginning of 2016, Zoey Deutch has acting credits in 15 films and TV series. She’s rising like a rocket through the comedy scene, starring in romantic comedies like Set It Up, post-apocalyptic comedies like Zombieland: Double Tap, and TV comedies like The Politician. Deutch’s latest release, Buffaloed, acts as the greatest vehicle for her growing starpower, morphing into a film that only works because of Deutch’s existence.
Buffaloed, which premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Fest, follows Peg (Deutch), a young, fast-talking hustler and recently incarcerated woman. After being released from prison for scamming hoards of Buffalo Bills fans through fake ticket sales, Peg takes a job as a debt collector, working from the scummy and grubby Wizz (Jai Courtney). Written by Brian Sacca and directed by Tanya Wexler, Buffaloed works better as the film rolls along, as Peg deeper into the world of debt collection.
Soon after realizing Wizz is one of the worst people alive, Peg leaves that debt collection agency and opens her own, recruiting those that “have talent,” or several outcasts, religious fanatics, and ex-cellmates. Deutch, with a heavy amount of debt herself, is working to get rid of her own past mistakes, while also providing a new life for herself, her brother (Noah Reid), a local bar owner, and her mother (Judy Greer), a hairdresser that she lives with. Peg’s new business catches the attention of Wizz, and an all-out turf war follows. Peg (and Deutch) is at her best when she’s chatting with the other debt collectors, when she’s chatting with those on the phone, and when she’s wiggling out of an improbable situation.
Deutch’s performance lives on the line between incredible and off-the-rails crazy. It’s a haywire acting job that more people should see, for Deutch deserves a bigger and better audience. Her manic nature turns into pure comedy, and her likability only increases the more time she’s on screen, despite her awful decision making. It reminded me of Leonardo Dicaprio’s Wolf of Wall Street role or even Adam Sandler’s Uncut Gems performance. It’s closer to that tier of acting than you’d expect from an actor who’s young and largely new to bigger budget films.
The supporting cast fills their roles allowing Deutch to shine, with Courtney, Greer, and lawyer/love interest Jermaine Fowler doing a lot with a little. Courtney in particular dials up the scumminess to absurd levels, making him a formidable villain in the midst of the malicious business of debt collection. The writing gives audiences room and information to breathe, never moving too fast or leaving you in the dark, using The Big Short style of explaining the different elements of debt and all of the major players involved. By the end, it’s hard not to be endeared by the filmmaking, the script, and these characters, despite their flaws, their ulterior motives, and their chosen occupations.
Deutch is in the process of becoming a star. She looks one box office hit away from becoming a household name. Much of the general population will already recognize her from her Netflix appearances and her supporting roles on more expensive films, but her name is one that is on the tips of people’s tongues. Buffaloed shows what Deutch can do when given the chance to put her comedy chops on display, giving a physical acting performance that might blow you away. Seek out this film. She’s that good.
Buffaloed keeps you smiling at the end, with a relatively realistic and positive outcome. Deutch deserves the same. So let’s give her more chances to strut on-screen, more opportunities to lead a film, and more times to be the heroine we never knew we needed. I’m sure we’ll all be much happier with Deutch as the center of attention.