Genre: Comedy Thriller
Director: Nimród Antal
Starring: Sándor Csányi, Zoltán Mucsi, Csaba Pindroch, Lajos Kovács, Eszter Balla
Duration: 105 min.
A farcical look at the Budapest subway system, the crazy ticket agents who earn their living there and the hostile citizens they deal with on a daily basis.
Kontroll is the debut feature film from American born Hungarian director Nimród Antal. It screened in the Un Certain Regard section of the 2004 Cannes Film Festival where it won the Award of the Youth, an award selected by a special jury of members aged eighteen to twenty-five.
It's a frenetically paced dark comedy and thriller set entirely in the underground stations and tunnels of the Budapest Metro. It follows young troubled but agreeable ticket inspector Bulcsú (Sándor Csányi) and his fellow team of roaming co-workers who are all equally messed up in their own way, as they face the daily grind of putting up with the fascist bosses, dealing with a non stop stream of ticketless and highly disgruntled riders, and maintaining bitter rivalries with other teams of inspectors. All the while a serial killer is at large, stalking the platforms and pushing unsuspecting passengers into the path of oncoming trains.
The characters here are all a fairly stereotypical quirky motley crew, and the narrative is a mostly plotless and wandering sequence of chaotic events pieced together as a metaphoric and satirical take on the aging and dilapidated Hungarian subway system, one that still runs on the honor system. Not at all a convincing story or scenario, however there is a great energy and pace to it, and has for lack of a better descriptor, an MTV like look and feel, with a brightly lit color palette dominated by an eerie fluorescent glow which makes the dark shadows even darker, and a pulsing electronic soundtrack that perfectly fits the quick paced nature of the film.
Antal also shows a great talent for directing action scenes. The numerous chase sequences throughout are truly exciting, as we see Bulscú and company in various instances attempt to outrun sneaky passengers and even oncoming trains. A little bit fast cut and shaky at times, but still very impressive considering the half million dollar budget and lack of special effects.
Overall an interesting an enjoyable first effort from a director who has since gone on to do a number of average Hollywood action films including the recent forgettable Predator sequel. Don't let that discourage you though, this one is well worth seeing, and I hope Antal returns to doing more films like it in the future. Thank you to the reader who recently suggested it!
— Bonjour Tristesse