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Fun, Frenetic, and Frightening

  • May 25, 2007
In the Prologue, the narrator relates that his friend director, Nimrod Antal, has made a film about the struggle between good and evil. Using the Hungarian subway system as symbol, they jump start `Kontroll,' (Control), an innovative movie almost exclusively taking place on or near train platforms. In which case, the underground system is hell on earth with its Satan being a black hooded hoodlum morbidly seeking victims to push onto the tracks to collide with oncoming trains. Surveillance cameras abound all over, yet the subway executives (or "suits" as they call them) can't seem to put their finger on the epidemic of alleged suicides they are unable to avert. In between some confrontational scenes, there is plenty going on to keep our attention. Besides being unique, 'Kontroll' has that rare ability to mix laughs, tenderness, and brutality with jarring shifts in a way that actually works. (No wonder Hungary's box office made this movie their homegrown 'Star Wars'.)

The focus starts with a drunken women who stumbles alone on the underground platform, comically fumbling with opening a bottle of champagne. Abruptly, we soon see nothing left of her but half a high-heeled shoe remaining after a high speed train passes. Next, we come to an apparent homeless man, leaning against a post. A man gently tells him that he has a bloody nose. To which he has seemingly stirred belligerence, only we find he is a ticket inspector, Bulscu' (Csany Sa'ndor), who makes the station his home. At first hard to like, his toughness fades later to a good-natured presence, especially given the nature of his position facing rough colleagues and customers. No wonder. For the gruffness, many vignettes show the thankless job of getting customers to pay. Given the prologue's disclaimer of "fiction over fact" [to paraphrase], we certainly are given a vision of purgatory to boot. The morning meeting finds Bulscu' has overslept, but he doesn't miss much with a surly supervisor assigning tasks and urgently lecturing them to save suicidal people jumping onto the tracks. Then, the dreary atmosphere turns to color with myriads of passengers who evade and harass the ticket inspectors. Just a partial cross-section, we get gays and women who flirt with the inspectors to pass on payment with dialogue that is always witty and "fresh". One decent passenger is a beautiful woman patron who wears a bear costume. (One well-edited scene has the employees going to mandatory psychologist sessions. Besides making us laugh, they inadvertently provide a better reason than Michael Moore to have a universal health care system--no matter which side you take on the issue.)

`Kontrol' is a unique movie ride. It could easily have been too bleak, but the variety of development is well constructed. Besides balancing the atmosphere, the transition from surreal to stark realism is nearly ingenious without derailing the plot. `Kontroll' is a quirky film that delivers colorful laughs as well as a menacingly dark atmosphere that is sure to give one gooseflesh. Besides that, I am partial to the way they draw from American chase scenes, like French movie, L'Enfant, yet managing to provide their own playful twists. 'Kontroll' is a movie that matters.

(Special thanks to fellow reviewer, Michael Acuna, who--besides being a tireless resource--recommended this hidden gem and put it on the map.)

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More Kontroll reviews
review by . February 22, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
*** out of ****     So I guess the deal with directors such as Nimrod Antal is that they have one good film and then they just go on and succumb to Hollywood's clichéd madness. I always knew that Antal was a director of talent, skill, and style. "Kontroll", his first film, proves that he is every one of those things. While it's far from perfect, "Kontroll" is a cool, hip, and suitably stylistic little thriller from Hungary. It's sort of like Antal's nod to past art-house thrillers; …
review by . May 04, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Music, cinematography, acting, characters     Cons: Mystery plot not much of a mystery     The Bottom Line: Don't view this as a thriller but as a mood piece and it is worth your time.     Plot Details: This opinion reveals everything about the movie''s plot. Kontroll, like Donnie Darko (which I have also reviewed), belies classification. Unless we create a classification for mood pieces, like ambient music, these movies will continue …
review by . September 06, 2005
Ingredients: a bizarre story by Jim Adler and Nimród Antal, a setting completely confined to the compression world of the Budapest subway system, a group of excellent actors, a cinematographer that knows how to take advantage of this amazing setting and push it to its limits, a musical score that knows exactly how to underline the dark comedy, terror, and degenerate feeling of the film. Results: one of the finest films to come out of Central Europe directed with complete 'control' by Nimród Antal!    …
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John L. Peterson ()
Ranked #99
I am a substitute teacher who enjoysonline reviewing. Skiing is my favorite pastime; weight training and health are my obsessions;and music and movies feed my psyche. Books are a treasure and a pleasure … more
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Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2004 Academy Awards, writer-director Nimrod Antal's debut is a thrilling, claustrophobic, wild ride through the subway system in the Hungarian capital of Budapest. Sandor Csanyi stars as Bulcsu, the leader of a small crew that patrols the underground making sure that passengers have purchased a ticket. However, the men actually have little power themselves, so many people that they stop humiliate them, physically and verbally abuse them, and easily run away. Within this small world, Bulcsu and his gang, which includes the older Professor (Zoltan Mucsi), the narcoleptic Muki (Csaba Pindroch), the diminutive Lecso (Sandor Badar), and the young and innocent Tibi (Zsolt Nagy), battle Gonzo (Balazs Lazar) and his far more successful group of ticket checkers. In one of the film's most exciting scenes, Bulcsu and Gonzo go railing--racing down the tracks in between two moving trains. Meanwhile, a mysterious hooded person in black is pushing people in front of train...
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