Buzzard (Movie Review)

Buzzard (Movie Review)
6 10

PLOT: Martin (Joshua Burge), a disenfranchised scam-artist working as a temp agent at a mortgage company, becomes unraveled after forging checks and fashioning a freaky Freddy Krueger Power-Glove.

REVIEW: After following a fist-full of short films with his debut feature APE in 2012, Michigan based writer/director Joel Potrykus is back with BUZZARD, a sophomore stint which reunites him with lead actor Joshua Burge. Difficult to codify on the whole, the two gents have crafted in BUZZARD a super low-tech yet at times oddly compelling portrait of an unlikeable loser struggling to survive on the margins of a modern capitalistic society. With a humorous bent and shades of horror homage, BUZZARD manages keen observation of our country's current economic milieu, despite nothing of note ever really happening on the visceral genre front. Instead what we have is a meandering, low-budget character piece with a spare, almost student-film aesthetic, but one that offers a strangely fascinating glance at a young man's own duplicitous downfall.

So Martin Jackitansky (Burge) is a twenty-something ne'er-do-well plodding along in a soul-killing temp job at a mortgage company. In his malcontented downtime he plays Nintendo with his Power Glove, bumps death-metal, rocks Freddy Krueger posters on his bedroom wall (really though, ANOES 2??) But he also lies through his teeth to his mother about getting a raise at work, becoming manager and having way more friends than the one he does have - the hilarious Napoleon Dynamite-like Derek (played by Potrykus himself). Worse yet, the deceitfulness transcends mere words when Marty decides to keep a bunch of pending mortgage checks from work, sign them over to himself and go on a wild ATM spending-spree. Wise idea, right? Yeah well neither is fashioning a five-bladed-Fred-Kruger-fist out of his busted Power Glove, which he sees as a must-have to defend his amoral mores. Too bad he barely EVER uses it!

Marty flashes some cunning along the way however. He not only dupes Derek into complying with his dastardly deeds, he cons his way into small-amount-check-cashing schemes, and for awhile gets away with it. He also coyly gets a cheap hotel-key copied and squeezes an extra day of sleep out of it. He rummages through a McDonald's trashcan for an Egg McMuffin, only to bring it to the counter and indirectly ask for a new one. Which he gets. You see, Marty is an unapologetic taker, unafraid of asking what he wants upfront, then demanding it if denied. He's a scuffling spiv, a sociopathic scavenger doing all he can to get by, even if it means threatening violence. Commendable on one hand given his disenfranchised, underdog nature in an ever-cruel world, but the problem is, Marty isn't very likeable beyond that. At all. His actions might be at first, but they grow more and more deplorable and harder to justify, to the point where our flirtation with sympathy erodes into utter annoyance. Unfortunately this, along with the abject dearth of any real horror, makes the film end up going - much like Marty himself - nowhere fast.

Maybe that' the point. After all, the film has a stuck-in-the-past feel as if it were a recent period piece. The Nintendo and Sega consoles, the Elm Street posters, some of the outmoded clothing and dilapidated Detroit environs. Whether that's intentional or not, it's the overt social commentary about just that...stagnation, however preachy, I found to be the most trenchant in the flick. Not quite Douglas in FALLING DOWN, but I also thought Burge delivered a strong performances as Marty, admirable as an actor but utterly detestable as a character. His sharp facial features and sunken eyes give him a unique and at times off-putting vibe that helps sell the part. At least for a long while, until he finally crosses the point of no return and becomes not just a sly huckster but a potential murderer as well. It's no wonder he landed a key role in Alejandro Inarritu's next flick, THE REVENANT, co-starring DiCaprio and Hardy. I also thought Potrykus wisely played his humor with a dead-pan straight-face, which made the jokes in the film infinitely funnier.

Beyond that though, this isn't much of a horror film to speak of. Aside from the Krueger worship, it's a mildly amusing look at the meltdown of a disaffected Gen-Xer who, in his eyes, is forced to rob, cheat and steal his way through life in an unforgivable world. Even at the hand of violence. In this case, his literal own! For as cheaply made as it is, with so few characters even, there's an undeniably strange appeal for large portions of the movie. But it leaves you flummoxed, agitated even. Never-mind the attempted Lynchian head-scratch ending, there's a breaking point of un-likeability that Marty eventually reaches that proves to cold to bear. And again, without the requisite horror elements to pay it all off, it's hard to give the film a wholehearted blessing to this particular crowd. I can say though, without equivocation, that we're excited to see what Potrykus has in store for the future.

Extra Tidbit: BUZZARD hits select theaters and VOD on March 6th.



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