Director: Nimrod Antal

Hungary| 2003. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 105 mins.

Untainted by so much as a single frame of natural light, Nimrod Antal’s debut feature sites itself entirely underground—within the busy metropolitan network of Budapest, which it conceives as a kind of ?uorescent-lit wonderland, ?lled with ravers, pickpockets, warring bureaucrats and irascible grandmothers. More or less a mirror-image, in fact, of the city above. A loose, mittel-European spin on Luc Besson’s classic Subway, it follows the misadventures of a ragged group of ticket inspectors, hopeless mis?ts who, in addition to their regular duties, must track down the anonymous killer—a hooded ?gure straight out of Scream—pushing unwary commuters onto the tracks. As if this were not enough, there’s the internecine rivalry brewing between themselves and a rival team of inspectors. Their feud is resolved in the ?lm’s most spectacular set piece: a frantic race between stations, as two guards attempt to outrun an oncoming train.
A smart and savvy ?lmmaker, Antal has triumphed precisely because his ?lm refuses either to peddle the touristic, picture-postcard view of his city or to play up its worst excesses. And satisfyingly, he’s now reaping the rewards: Control became the most successful Hungarian ?lm last year, and remake rights have already been snapped up for the U.S. The latter is ironic, since much of what is most satisfying about the ?lm is also particular to its setting. Shot in the ?ve hours each night during which the city’s train system shuts down, this is an extremely Hungarian ?lm, imbued with the chill and stench of the Budapest tunnels. It’s also beautifully made: the work of someone with a ?rm grasp of genre conventions, and style to burn.

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