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Lunch » Tags » Movies » Reviews » Kontroll » User review

Slackers in a Budapest subway lead lives of funny desperation

  • May 4, 2006
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 to be misunderstood because they will not hit their target market by being labeled as mysteries or thrillers. Someone expecting a mystery-thriller like The Sixth Sense or Se7en will be very disappointed. That said it isn’t at all a bad movie, just one for which you need to put aside expectations.

The movie centers mainly on a band of 5 misfits who are ticket inspectors in the Budapest subway system; they are essentially a step above total slackers but are all hail-fellows-well-met in their own rights. Several people have died recently in the subway by falling, jumping, or being pushed onto the tracks as a train approaches. The movie begins with this and ends with it, but most of the time between is spent in various other areas. The story is like any subway system, it goes in many directions, but finally all the trains end in the same place they started.

What makes this move worth watching wasn’t the mystery; that turns out to be more of a distraction than not. Ticket inspectors are a form of sub-police (pun intended). They are pretty much despised or, at the very most, tolerated. So the band of misfits makes the best of their underground ambit by having their forms of fun as much as possible. Their world is somewhat similar in both tone and grime to the one David Fincher creates in Fight Club. Also like that movie, Kontroll is filled with funny and sometimes downright hilarious moments.

The focus of most of the humor occurs in two montages where the story focuses on the 5 doing their jobs. These moments are literally laugh out loud funny. Mr. Antal’s direction is perhaps best displayed during these two extended montages, not only because of the humor, but because the camera work matches the mood so clearly.

Kontroll is Mr. Antal’s first movie, so that it is a little rough in places is to be expected, but as a first work it is impressive. The movie never moves toward the scatological, overly sexual, or gratuitous gore that tend to drive so many directors’ first movies. In this way, to be cliché and blunt, Kontroll is in fact very controlled.

Music and imagery, particularly the play of light and pitch black (not just dark) help round out this movie. The music is brilliantly fitting and presented at a volume that makes it less than background noise (like the music in Run Lola Run). And the light/dark and the grime and near claustrophobia Mr. Antal creates is very much like that created by David Fincher—even the color palate which is mostly earth tones (even the bright clothing some of the characters wear is tinged with grime) is very much like the palate Mr. Fincher used in Fight Club and Se7en.

As a tone/mood piece, Kontroll is worth viewing; as a mystery or thriller it is not. This is the bold exception to the usual thriller where the plot seems tacked on like dialog in a porn flick. Here, the mystery seems tacked into what is otherwise a funny slacker movie. In the beginning you get the sense you’re watching a serial killer movie, then it becomes a slacker movie, then in the end you are faced not with a potential serial killer so much as one man’s unspoken demons and the trite way they are dispelled. It even ends with a kiss that only fails being a big Hollywood kiss because it was filmed in Budapest—the action is the same, the location isn’t.

Kontroll requires a good deal of attention so it isn’t a movie used for relaxation. The performances are very good, the film quality is excellent; the story is the only place where it is lacking. I recommend it to film buffs, but not to casual viewers.


Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older

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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 25, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
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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Paul Savage ()
Ranked #56
I name and describe everything and classify most things. If 'it' already had a name, the one I just gave it is better.
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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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