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Watchful 'Buzzard' keeps you guessing

Watchful 'Buzzard' keeps you guessing
Joshua Burge is shown wearing a devil mask in a scene from the movie "Buzzard." (Oscilloscope)

Tough to categorize, tougher to shrug off, "Buzzard" firmly places young indie filmmaker Joel Potrykus on the ones-to-watch list.

In the writer-director's hands, what would seem to be an agreeably quirky slacker comedy about a shiftless small-time scam artist subtly morphs into a darkly piercing study of alienation.

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Working as a temp at a small town Michigan bank, Marty Jackitansky (Joshua Burge) is the poster boy for arrested development — when not planning modifications to his Nintendo Power Glove, he's coming up with fresh ways to defraud the system.

But when his scheme to sign customer refund checks over to himself ends up trapping him in a paranoia-ridden corner, he initially hides out in his geeky work buddy Derek's basement (Potrykus) before taking to the empty streets of Detroit.

While Burge (who previously played a struggling stand-up comic in Potrykus' similarly disturbing "Ape") dares you to dislike him, there's something about his lanky, sad-eyed Steve Buscemi-like demeanor that elicits a certain degree of sympathy. Under most circumstances, watching a character in close-up eating an entire plate of spaghetti and meatballs in real time wouldn't be considered a welcome proposition, but Burge keeps it oddly compelling.

Even as the idiosyncratic characters would have been right at home in Jim Jarmusch or Kevin Smith territory, the rightfully disturbing "Buzzard" emerges as a true original.

"Buzzard."

No MPAA rating.

Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes.

Playing: Laemmle's NoHo 7, North Hollywood.

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