Film Review: Buzzard

Revolting to the point of being mesmerizing, Joshua Burge stars in Buzzard, a shoestring-budget indie slacker flick from Michigan writer-director Joel Potrykus. It opens Friday exclusively at the Cedar Lee.

This film is said to be the final installment in Potrykus' "animal trilogy," the first of which was the short Werewolf and the second of which was Ape, about a pyromaniacal stand-up comic. All three have starred the transfixing Burge, toward whom it's hard to direct any criticisms related to acting. He seems so genuinely disaffected, so fully nihilistic and loathsome, that it's hard to gauge how much is the character and how much is Burge himself (to his credit, I guess).

Burge plays Marty Jackitansky, a small-time scam artist in Grand Rapids. In terms of artistry, these scams are finger paintings: He phones Hot Pocket's corporate office, repeatedly, to register complaints in order to obtain coupons and free product. He orders toner and expensive pens for his office — he works as a temp in a bank — and then takes them to a local office-supply store, pleading defects and demanding cash refunds. The film's opening scene finds Marty closing his checking account and then immediately opening a new one to take advantage of a $50 new-account bonus.

Jackitansky is a slacker, though, of a bygone era. In his Doritos-infested apartment, he's got posters of Freddy Krueger and freakshow comic books. He bops to death metal in ghoulish rubber masks. He wears a black hoodie with a single sleeve. He's really into Nintendo. It's unclear if the film at large is intended as a throwback, or if it merely suggests that Jackitansky himself (and his Franciscanly balding, nebbish co-worker Derek, played by director Potrykus) are so immature and developmentally stunted that even their lame passions — CDs, Mountain Dew — are passe.

When Jackitansky forges a series of returned checks and learns that he'll be caught, he seeks refuge in Derek's basement, the "party zone," and then flees to Detroit with nothing but a Nintendo Power Glove, to which he's affixed razor blades, a la Krueger. The total lack of forethought and sensible contingency recalls Fargo's Jerry Lundegaard, minus the Minnesotan endearment.

Potrykus has no qualms about showing Jackitansky in the totality of his repulsiveness. Good luck feeling even remotely sympathetic toward a strain of anti-corporatism this petty, this selfish. When Jackitansky scores $200, he blows most of it on a night in a Detroit hotel and uses the final $20 for room service, "a $20 plate of spaghetti," which he then consumes in enormous mouthfuls, almost choking, spilling sauce and noodles all over his robe while gleefully watching something on TV, unseen. As from a buzzard picking at carrion, it's almost impossible to look away.