First-time writer-director Nimrod Antal's surreal thriller unfolds entirely within the confines of Budapest's extensive subway system, which looks just like New York's did back in the bad old TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE (1974) days: dirty, gloomy, bristling with barely controlled frustration and aslime with hookers, pimps and crooks. In another life, Bulcsu (Sandor Csanyi) was an up-and-coming white-collar executive, successful, admired and liked by his peers. But he caved under the pressure and dropped out for the life of a ticket controller, a municipal employee whom commuters treat with the same furious contempt motorists unleash on meter maids. Working in teams of five, they troll the system for fare-beaters traveling on expired passes, improper tickets or no tickets at all. Despised by management, taunted by the favored teams and regularly assigned the dirtiest, most lawless lines in the system, Bulcsu's misfit brigade — narcoleptic Muki (Csaba Pindroch), runty Lecso (Sandor Badar), the know-it-all Professor (Zoltan Mucsi) and none-too-bright new guy Tibi (Zsolt Nagy) — embrace their outsider status. They brawl with defiant fare beaters; feud with other teams — especially Gonzo (Balazs Mihalyfi) and his smug apple-polishers; keep company with congenial oddballs like Bela (Lajos Kovacs), a seriously cracked engineer; and battle petty irritations like Bootsie (Bence Matyassy), a punk who gets his kicks pranking controllers. Bulcsu maintains a facade of normalcy and even manages to catch the eye of Bela's pretty, if eccentric, daughter Sofie (Eszter Balla), who rides the train in a goofy bear costume and never, ever buys a ticket. But he's slowly retreating from the world, which comes to light when a madman starts pushing riders in front of trains, eluding capture with an ease that bespeaks intimate familiarity with the maze of tunnels. And that sounds a lot like the increasingly unkempt and haggard Bulcsu: Unbeknownst to his crew, he's entirely stopped going above ground, eating in underground kiosks, sleeping on deserted platforms and exploring the labyrinthine nooks and crannies where the dispossessed take refuge from the world. From the deadpan disclaimer in which the purported head of the Budapest subway assures viewers that the real subway is nothing like the one we're about to see to the climactic race on the tracks, Antal's debut is a sharp, blackly comic hugely entertaining thriller that manages not to get entangled in half-baked symbolism until its very last shot.
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- Released: 2004
- Rating: R
- Review: First-time writer-director Nimrod Antal's surreal thriller unfolds entirely within the confines of Budapest's extensive subway system, which looks just like New York's did back in the bad old TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE (1974) days: dirty, gloomy, brist… (more)