A chronic underachiever brazenly manipulates everyone he can with no greater goal than to make it day to day and to consume as much junk food as possible. (logline)
Marty Jackitansky (“It’s White Russian.”) is a slacker of the tallest order. If he puts any real effort towards anything, it’s in finding ways to rip off the bank he’s temping for or by lodging complaints to get free frozen pizza. Raised on horror movies and heavy metal, Marty is the quintessential contrarian, caring only about his own (limited) needs and never even considering there could be consequences for his actions. His whole life is about instant gratification, so if meeting those requirements are interrupted, the result is a near violent outburst.
Marty’s behavior is vividly captured by writer/director Joel Potrykus in Buzzard, one of the strangest and most captivating character studies I have seen in quite some time. We’ve met people like this in the movies before, but Potrykus and Joshua Burge, who plays Marty, are able to create someone wholly original and completely believable. This is the portrait of a genuinely unlikeable man, one we end up transfixed on due to Potrykus’s preference for long takes that force us to watch as Marty attempts to reap the rewards of something he did not earn. Often, the camera sits on Marty and the audience must take the point-of-view of the person dealing with him, in turn making us feel as uncomfortable and victimized as they do.
The real key to the movie’s success, though, is Burge’s fascinating performance. He is able to amuse and disgust us simultaneously, best displayed in an early scene where Marty tries to manipulate his bank for a free checking account and later when we observe him shoveling spaghetti into his mouth, the bites getting bigger (and sloppier) as the meal progresses. Marty’s frequent tantrums hint at his capability to do physical harm to someone if properly provoked, but figuring out when it will occur turns out to be far from inevitable (the movie teases our expectations on several occasions). The most frightening element of Buzzard, however, is not Marty’s savagery but instead, the uninhibited glee he takes from pulling off one of his poorly planned schemes. Just knowing that he will still be out there, naively confident and without a care in the world, proves to be the most chilling factor of all.
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