Slick Subway Stories

This is sometimes the way my brain works. A filmmaker with a background in tight, well-directed films makes a new movie, and that peaks a curioisty in his first effort, which in the case of Nimrod Antal (Armored) is a Hungarian film called Kontroll.

Made in 2003, the film did the festival rounds until it quietly debuted on DVD, and arguably remains a small gem waiting to be discovered because of what it isn't: a slick action film about a money heist or serial killer with dour gore and dreary characters.

Antal's film is partly set in an absurd version of Budapest's subway system, and focuses on a transit cop and his goofball compatriots who scour the lines for tricksters, noisemakers, purse snatchers, and a girl in a dirty rabbit suit who doesn't like it when young snots don't offer their seats to seniors.

There have been suspense/thrillers/action-comedies set in subway systems, and perhaps the granddaddy is The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974), which dealt with a band of ruthless crooks holding a train of passengers hostage in the NYC subway system until a hefty ransom is delivered in under and hour. The film was subsequently remade as a 1998 TV movie (shot in Toronto), and in 2009 with a bloated John Travolta as the lead baddie.

One could argue Luc Besson's own breakthrough film wasn't the dialogue-free, post-apocalyptic sci-fi flick Le dernier combat / The Last Battle (1983), but Subway, which properly introduced Christophe Lambert to the globe in 1985 as a yellow-haired Belmondo type who steals and hides out in the utility tunnels of the Paris subway from the police, the mob, and Isabelle Adjani. Part caper, comedy, cartoon, and puff pastry, Subway probably influenced Kontroll in terms of Antal centering his story around a charming vagabond lead.

The other link in this quartet of subway tales is Money Train, which in no way is a good movie, but its writers borrowed the concept of a heist from Pelham and placed it in the hands of two moronic transit cops. Wormed into the story is a serial killer subplot, and with those three elements one can sense Antal took the best three - Pelham's firm direction, Subway's lead rebel hero, and Money Train's misfit transit cops - and made a hybrid that worked.

This is all an assumption based on similar elements, but it's worth taking a peek at the reviews and see where one can trace the dots into lines that converge on Kontroll.

Coming soon will be a series of film reviews related to an interview regarding stock music in schlocky horror films, as well as a review of the new Legion (2010) Blu-ray, and an interview with composer John Frizzell, whose music was a lot more uniform than the film.

Coming next: soundtrack reviews, which will be posted later in the week, as I'll be en route to Ottawa for a few days for some R&R, German cooking, and schnapps. I may also spring for some WiFi on Via Rail, and test the service to see of one can update a website en route using the Asus EEE.


Mark R. Hasan, Editor


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