Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Buzzard (2015)

Directed by: Joel Potrykus
Runtime: 1hr 37mins
Google Play, Amazon Instant

Occasionally a movie comes along and manages to entertain without necessarily having a compelling plot. There's enough humor, and some other indefinable quality that keeps you watching. That's how I'd describe Buzzard, a film that combines Office Space's comedic workplace theft schemes with Napoleon Dynamite's low budget, geek culture minimalism.

It follows Marty Jackitansky (Joshua Burge), a young rebel who thinks he has a cause. When he's not in his apartment listening to metal albums and making a Freddy Kreuger gauntlet, he works for First National Bank as a temp. He hates it though. It doesn't pay as well as he'd like, and has no interest in his work. Worse yet, he hates the type of corporate greed he associates with banks and other big companies. But we can never really be sure whether his schemes are out of desperation for a quick buck, or whether he just wants to stick it to the man. His schemes (far smaller in scale than that of Office Space's) include having the bank order him office supplies, which he returns for cash refunds at a local office supply store; and closing his checking account, only to immediately open a new one to take advantage of their $50 promotion.

When his boss, Carol, asks him to call some customers to tell them they have checks waiting for them, he instead sign them over to himself in order to cash them. They're small checks not worth much, but he'll take anything. Plus there's enough of them that they amount to around $2000. But his boss informs him that they'll know if and when the checks are cashed. This important information comes only after he's already cashed a few of them. Paranoia ensues.

So he spends a week trying to lay low. He hides in his co-worker's basement for a few days. The two spend time doing the sorts of funny ridiculous things geeks do when shut in and bored for a few days. That is, until he fears someone might know he's staying there. Next he heads for Detroit just to lay low somewhere further from the scenes of his various crimes. These crimes lead to more crimes, especially when he's not working and needs to support himself while on the run. He just hopes he can wait it out till everything blows over.

While it lacks the heart of an Office Space, or even the light-hearted, geeky charm of a Napoleon Dynamite, Buzzard manages to entertain nonetheless. It's minimalist in its style, an indie in the mumblecore subgenre, and likely to become a cult classic among rebellious youths. It's anyone's guess when the film is set, it never says, but it might as well by anytime. It's a character study about a classless, neurotic, young geek in constant need of a few dollars more, and where his desperation takes him. This is a genuinely funny film throughout, and it, thankfully, doesn't rely on over the top potty humor, or slapstick moments. The comedy, instead, comes in the form of his various schemes, and scenes where Marty and his hilariously geeky co-worker Derek (played by the films director Joel Potrykus) try to pass the time.

There's occasionally a nice subtlety to Joshua Burge's performance, particularly in some of the smaller moments, like when he realizes how expensive a night at a hotel is going to cost him, but he doesn't want to show shock at the price tag. A buzzard flies free, and preys on those weaker than them or picks up the scraps of others. Marty would like to think that describes him, but he's hapless as a criminal. He's an impending train wreck that we can't seem to look away from. As a character, he doesn't have much depth, but that doesn't make his struggle any less interesting, and comical to watch.

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