REVIEW WRITTEN BY NATHAN LERNER
For Digital First Media
Set in Grand Rapids, Michigan, “Buzzard” revolves around Marty Jackitansky (Joshua Burge). He’s an indolent, perpetually disaffected slacker, who is constantly gaming the system. Intermittently, the twenty-something Marty articulates some vague notion that he is sticking it to the Man. However, Marty lacks any cohesive, well-conceptualized anti-Establishment philosophy. He’s simply a social parasite.
Marty’s scams are small scale and not particularly clever. In the opening scene, he is in the process of closing out a small bank account. When the branch manager asks him solicitously if there was something that they had done wrong, Marty responds in the negative. As it turns out, Marty is availing himself of the bank’s $50 promotion to attract new accounts. To qualify, Marty is closing his extant account and using the proceeds to open a new account. The branch manager learns that Marty works at another branch of the bank, the official insists that under the terms of the promotion, employees of the bank don’t qualify for the bonus. However, Marty cites the technicality that he is a temp, not an employee.
Marty’s time and energy is consumed with various other trivial machinations. Using the bank’s online account, he orders office supplies supposedly for the use of the branch. Once the office supplies arrive, he takes them to a local retail outlet and pretends that he purchased them there. The film posits that Marty can repeatedly obtain these cash refunds even though he does not have a receipt from the store.
Marty doesn’t do anything productive at work. He spends his entire work day, constantly goofing off with an office colleague, Derek (screenwriter/director, Joel Potrykus). It is unclear how Marty remains employed.
Marty is a disagreeable, socially maladroit dufus. However, Derek is far worse. He is a pathetic loser, who is afflicted with a profound sense of homophobia. Casual physical contact with a male sets him off. He can’t micturate if anyone is in the men’s room when he standing at the urinal.
Derek brags that he has turned the basement of his father’s home into a so-called “party zone.” However, it seems apparent that Derek has no friends with whom he can party. He hangs out in the basement all by himself, playing with his extensive collections of electronic games.
Marty’s boss, Carol (Teri Ann Nelson), gives Marty a new assignment. Some small checks have been sent to bank patrons, but returned as undeliverable to the branch. Carol assigns Marty to ferret out the depositors’ correct addresses, so that the checks can be redirected to them. Marty sees a golden opportunity. He simply forges the signatures of the various depositors and signs the checks over to himself. Somehow, although Marty works in a bank, it never occurs to him that his scam will be uncovered.
Carol explains to Marty that there are security measures in place to catch people, who have forged checks. Marty becomes convinced that he will be busted by authorities. Rather than remain at his apartment, he decides to go into hiding.
Marty maintains a contentious relationship with Derek. However, Marty nevertheless demands that Derek allow him to crash in the basement of the latter’s home. Derek begrudgingly agrees, but only if Marty agrees to comply with the supposed rules of the party zone. Predictably the two clash. This explodes in a confrontation in which Marty physically assaults Derek.
Marty is obviously consumed with anger. In one of the film’s recurrent dynamics, Marty is repeatedly threatens to beat up people. However, Marty is a puny whimp. In one pivotal scene, to do battle with a rival, he dons a Nintendo video game glove, customized with long metallic claw attachments. It evokes the spiked contraption worn by Freddy Kruger in “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and its sequels.
While a student at Grand Valley State University, the aspiring filmmaker, Joel Potrykus, made a series of 8 mm and 16 mm shorts. He subsequently made a trilogy of feature length films with animal titles. Following up on “Coyote” and “Ape,” “Buzzard” presumably completes the series. All three of the films were set in Grand Rapids, were shot on micro-budgets, and starred Joshua Burge in the lead. The bug-eyed, scraggly-haired Burge might be considered a curious candidate for the status of a muse.
“Buzzard” starts off as a reasonably engaging study of an offbeat character. However, by the time that the film reaches its denouement, you wish that he’d just buzz off.
** No MPAA rating 97 minutes
Nathan Lerner sees over 200 feature films a year. He welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.