Tuesday, March 25, 2014

“Buzzard”–Movie Review



With The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s New Directors/New Films series under way, I attended a screening of the new comedy-drama “Buzzard”, written & directed by Joel Potrykus and starring Joshua Burge.


When a young man embezzles money from his employer, can he evade the authorities or will he be forced to serve time?


Marty (Burge) is a rudderless millennial stuck in a dead-end job. Bored with life and disgusted by society in general, he is on constant lookout for different ways to pull scams and work the system. Whether it’s getting a free bag of potato chips or complimentary medical care, he feels a great sense of entitlement to acquire anything he can, provided he doesn’t have to work too hard for it or spend much (if any) of his own money in order to do so. Marty has perfected being a Slacker to an art form – unfortunately, it’s nothing that can reliably generate any substantial revenue.

Currently working as an office temp in the mortgage department of a local bank in his Grand Rapids, Michigan home, Marty devises a scheme:  he’ll steal the refund checks to be mailed to the bank’s customers and cash them himself. Initially, after trying this with only a few checks worth a small sum of money, Marty successfully manages to pull off his scam. Unfortunately, his greed leads to excess and upon learning that the employer would eventually be able to figure out what he did, Marty gets scared that he will wind up having to do time in prison. As a result, he leaves his home to temporarily stay with his office buddy Derek (Potrykus).

With the cohabitation arrangement between Derek and Marty as hopelessly ill-conceived as the scheme that put Marty there in the first place, Marty comes to the realization that he must leave town altogether, so he hops on a bus bound for Detroit. Once in the big city, Marty tries to live off some of the other refund checks he stole – but that doesn’t last long when his bank freezes his account and blocks the use of his ATM card from doing any form of transaction. Quickly running out of money, Marty attempts to get some much-needed funds by going to a nearby check cashing business – but when the owner suspects something fishy is up, will Marty finally be caught or can he escape the law?


The cynicism and (dare I even say the word?) nihilism of “Buzzard” is prevalent throughout the movie and is only part of what makes it work so brilliantly. While this is truly a story for The Great Recession, it is also timeless in its subject matter, telling the tale of a Generation Y slacker who seems not only destined to drown in his own hopelessness but also reveling in it simultaneously. Its dark comedy gradually takes an even darker turn, transforming “Buzzard” into perhaps more than merely a drama, but rather a tragedy instead. The character of Marty is wonderfully portrayed by Joshua Burge, who (to me, at least) looks like a young Steve Buscemi in this film.

One minor criticism I have with “Buzzard” is the ambiguity of its ending. Since I like to maintain spoiler-free reviews, I won’t give away anything essential to the plot. Suffice it to say this: while Director Potrykus employs a clever visual trick in the final scene, it’s rather unclear as to exactly what it means or what the director was trying to convey. Fortunately, Potrykus attended the screening and was available to provide his interpretation, which certainly made sense. But unless he intends to attend every screening, there might be more than just a few audience members scratching their head.

As mentioned above, Potrykus joined his star Joshua Burge to field questions from the audience after the screening. Potrykus said that he would love to remain in his hometown of Grand Rapids to shoot his movies; he’s not particularly interested in moving to Los Angeles, but admitted that he would be more than happy to accept major studio funding. Potrykus feels confident that with the relatively modest budget he needs for each film combined with the speed with which he completes projects, he could turn out about five movies a year. When a question was raised about the motion picture’s ending, Potrykus said he intentionally left it up to the audience’s interpretation.

Buzzard (2014) on IMDb

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