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.

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.

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 the basement of his geeky work buddy Derek (Potrykus) before taking to the empty streets of Detroit.

Though 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 *** (Out of four stars)

Directed by Joel Potrykus. With Joshua Burge, Joel Potrykus, Teri Ann Nelson. Distributed by Oscilloscope Laboratories.

Running time: 1 hour, 38 mins.

Parent's guide: No MPAA rating (adult themes).

Playing at: PFS at the Roxy.EndText