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‘Buzzard’ is an uninspired addition to the man-child genre

‘Buzzard’ is an uninspired addition to the man-child genre

Buzzard PosterBuzzard
Written and directed by Joel Potrykus
USA, 2014

Buzzard, the third film in director Joel Potrykus’ ‘Animal Trilogy’, attempts to be like a low-budget alternative to Fight Club; a rage against the inescapable power of soul-deadening corporations seen through the eyes of one of the system’s former minions. Unfortunately, though, it simply ends up being one of the least inspired entries in the widespread “childish adult” genre, with nothing really insightful to add to it.

Buzzard starts with a close-up of a Nintendo Power Glove on the hand of an unidentified owner (whose head is cut off by the top of the frame) as it is savagely being beaten into submission. Who is this man? And what’s his problem that he would beat up an old Nintendo controller? To answer the first question, that man is Marty Jackitansky (Joshua Burge), a lazy young man who works as a temp at a First Federal bank and likes to blow off work to do things like play video games, beat the shit out of his controllers, and rip off his bosses by closing his checking account with the bank in which he works), only to reinstate it and thus get a nifty fifty dollar bonus that comes with opening a new account. Marty is a juvenile, little league scammer who spends his life ripping off corporations this way  (McDonalds, Walmart, First Federal, etc.). One day, he takes on a scam that is a little bigger than his usual childish pranks: he signs some checks of the bank’s over to himself. The rest of the movie follows Marty, now on the run from his employers, as he cashes the checks and reaps their rewards by doing things like going to the movies and ordering in an expensive plate of room service pasta at a hotel.

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As to the second question, what is Marty’s problem? Why does he act the way he does? I have no idea, and neither does Potrykus, I imagine. Potrykus neatly portrays the extent to which corporations are a part of everyday life. I’ve seen few films with as much product placement as this: McDonald’s, HP, Bugles, Doritos, Red Bull, these are but a few of the corporations whose items are prominently featured. Not even when he’s off work is Marty able to escape the corporate system, since he relies on it even for the most basic sustenance, his food. With a diet of Mountain Dew and Hot Pockets there is no escape. This is really frightening and a good cause to rebel against. The real issue, however, is that Potrykus has no idea why it is so frightening. “This whole corporate thing,” screams Marty like a lunatic to a person who will not cash his phony checks, “this whole business is a crime.” He stops there, not able to articulate anything more, like a child pissed off at another kid who stole his toy but unable to explain the injustice behind the action. Sure, Potrykus has identified a disturbing injustice in our world (there seems to be no privacy, no way to function in today’s world without the intrusion of ever-present corporations, wrote the critic on his Macbook), and it is wise of him to focus on a protagonist who can identify that same problem, but he takes the criticism no further.

Instead, Potrykus delights in Marty’s delinquencies and grotesqueries, which is really fun for a while (Marty and his friend eating Bugles directly out of a running treadmill is a particularly great bit), but after 15 minutes or so, the film starts to wear off its welcome. Buzzard would have worked as a segment in Richard Linklater’s Slacker, a film that drifts in and out of dozens of similarly disillusioned souls as they move through their daily lives with no meaning or direction. He gave a wonderful snapshot of an angry young man. Now, it’s time for Potrykus to drop the retrofitted Nintendo Power Glove, cool as it might be, and move on to something else, because he certainly seems capable of it.

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— Antonio Guzman