Is there anybody who doesn’t love Zoey Deutch? The effervescent comedienne lights up just about every movie she’s in, and even has us rooting for her as a shady debt collector in Buffaloed. The blue collar comedy from director Tanya Wexler (Hysteria) has Deutch delivering the info and the funny, not unlike The Big Short or The Other Guys, about an entire industry built on corrupt debt-collecting practices that snows its victims worse than a Buffalo blizzard.
Deutch plays the whip-smart and scrappy Peg Dahl, a South Buffalo gal who has always fought to break out from her chilly upstate confines. More than anything she doesn’t want to struggle to make ends meet, the way she sees her hairdresser mom (Judy Greer) do every single day. The brainy Peg thinks she’s found a way out when an Ivy League school grants her admission, only to realize she has no way to pay for it. So Peg does what she does best, which is put her homegrown business sense to good use as a debt collector.
This epiphany doesn’t happen on its own. It comes after a raft of sketchy ideas, including the counterfeiting of Buffalo Bills tickets (which earns the ire of the team’s hardcore faithful), which land her in prison on a four-year stretch. Peg always has an angle, finding new ways to make money is what she’s good at, and debt is literally all about money. Cha-ching.
Jai Courtney co-stars as Peg’s scumbag boss, Wizz, who runs his debt collecting biz like a scene out of Boiler Room, or a low rent Glengarry Glenn Ross…which I guess is sorta what Boiler Room was. His criminal practices make big bucks screwing people over, and Peg breaks the fourth wall (again, much like The Big Short) to breakdown the many ways debt collectors get away with murder. In execution it comes across as clunky and heavy-handed, but the charming Deutch makes for an entertaining teacher.
There’s quite a bit going on in Buffaloed and screenwriter Brian Sacca struggles to keep all of his balls in the air. As Peg branches off into her own debt collecting practice, gathering a group of like-minded misfits, she pisses off her all-male rivals of junior mafiosos. There’s also Peg’s messy on again/off again relationship with an altruistic District Attorney (Jermaine Fowler) looking to clean up the industry. Peg is an interesting character, because we want to cheer her on even though she’s doing some pretty terrible things. It’s just that guys like Wizz are just slightly worse. The schemes both use are deceptive, bordering on illegal (or outright illegal), the only real difference is who gets screwed in the end. Does that make Peg much better?
It takes all of Deutch’s charm, which is a considerable amount, to get us in Peg’s corner. Just as the titular city has embraced the underdog status of its beloved Buffalo Bills, Buffaloed fights really hard for our attentions when it could be so easily overlooked. Thanks to Deutch and a lively, informative script, the gamble mostly pays off.