There’s really nothing like a good antihero.
From Travis Bickle to Cersei Lannister, antiheroes have always held a special place in storytelling. While we can’t agree with their actions, we also can’t entirely disagree with their motivations. “I wouldn’t do it,” we tell our friends, “but I can understand why they felt like they had to.”
It’s this cognitive dissonance that attracts us to antiheroes. Objectively, we can see that the character is making bad decisions. Objectively, we can say that we wouldn’t take the same steps. But hypothetically, we understand we’re all capable of being pushed over the edge.
In BUFFALO AND TROUT, our main characters aren’t the “good guys.” These young women are professional thieves that track down larger criminal operations and steal their money. “It’s not like they’re going to file a police report,” Buffalo tells us in a soft monotone.
While it’s not exactly the idealistic wealth distribution Robin Hood had in mind, it seems to be working out for the duo.
There is one issue that complicates things. Buffalo (Brooke Coleman) and Trout (Maura Lewis) are addicts. PCP addicts, to be precise. It’s never expressly said whether this addiction leads to their current profession, but you get the feeling that they’re linked, and that’s enough.
The duo is “sharing a breakfast of locally crafted rocket fuel,” when their crime boss, Swan (Stephen A. Chang), shows up to tell them about their next job. They’ll be robbing the home of a white supremacist living in the area.
The two don’t seem phased. It’s just another job after all, and with the advance they get from Swan, they’ll be able to score well in advance of their felonious tango.
But when B&T show up at their target’s abode, they discover that the creep has kidnapped a couple and is holding them hostage. Should they ditch the job and come back another time? Or will their consciences get the better of them?
There’s much to praise in this short film, which screened at Panic Fest on January 25.
Cinematographers Cooper James, John Charles Manning, and Miguel Porto have done a great job delivering captivating shots that juxtapose the character’s dirty reality with the sparkling visions of the drug-fueled pair. It’s clear that great care went into each image we see on the screen, and the result is something that’s easy on the eyes, even when the blood starts flowing.
The appealing imagery isn’t the only thing BUFFALO AND TROUT has going for it. Writer/director Presley Paras delivers a script that’s both lean and clever. “My mom used to say that water won’t get out a really bad stain,” Buffalo tells us at the top of the film as a way of explaining her motivations. “Sometimes you need to pour on some vinegar. The problem with vinegar is, it can get you into a bit of a pickle.”
But for all the fun this short contained, what has stuck with me is the unique way Paras views his drug-addicted antiheroes.
To begin, the film seems to be a straight-forward crime thriller about two women in a hard spot. But interestingly Paras doesn’t take the usual route of looking down on their dependency. It’s just a fact of life. Sure, their habit plays a large part in the film’s climax, but even then its portrayed as a magical, even humorous thing. While the real-world events are horrific, the women are viewing themselves as warrior goddess in resplendent white robes. It’s a game to them, complete with colorful confetti taking the place of viscera and carnage.
What struck me was how uncomfortable this view of drug addiction made me. This isn’t something to laugh at, I thought while Brooke Coleman’s Buffalo took a cheerful left hook to the cheek. And yet, perhaps that’s Paras’ point. And if it is, it’s really quite subversive.
A good antihero is someone you love to hate. While their lives are different from the average viewer, you can still see a bit of yourself reflected back from the screen. Paras takes that trope and flips it on its head. I didn’t hate Buffalo and Trout, nor did I pity them, but through Paras’ agnostic approach to drug use, I did get an idea of what it could be like to feel invincible in the face of terrible danger. And that might be the scariest thing of all.