It starts with a limited aesthetic palette; it's a film shot entirely underground in Budapest's glum Soviet-era subway system. And despite director Nimród Antal's best efforts to keep the plot moving and the backgrounds within the system changing, Kontroll, and the characters in it, always seems to be struggling for air. The story involves a group of "down at the heels" ticket inspectors as they make their rounds through a vast subterranean network. Armed with little more than feeble catchphrases ("Tickets, please") and a vague sense of alienation ("Everyone hates us"), they are greeted mostly with insolence by the many passengers they encounter, none of whom seem to have purchased a ticket. It's made clear from the start that the subway and the people who populate it are meant to represent some kind of universal human condition. To that end, Antal has stripped his location of cultural signifiers: no posters on the walls, no signs telling us what station the characters are at and no discussion of social-political paradigms outside the subway system. To push the point past subtlety, Antal attaches a prologue to the beginning of the film. It's a direct-to-camera address by a representative from Budapest's subway system in which he urges viewers not to confuse the real subway system (a model of safety and efficiency, we're told) with the bureaucratic nightmare depicted in the film. So what, exactly, does Antal have to say about the universal human condition? There's violence, apparently, and a tendency toward sloth and fear, and then there's the all-consuming purity of love, the solution to all of these problems. One benefit of the film's slow pace is that the cast is given plenty of room to explore their characters' various neuroses. Hungarian hunk Sándor Csányi, in particular, is superb as the film's anti-hero Bulcsú, who's haunted by visions of the grim reaper and a fear of the outside world. And while Gyula Pados's cinematography never quite achieves the pace set by the film's thumping electronica soundtrack, he does a great job of articulating the vast futility of this underground world and avoids the cliché of repetitive imagery that the subway location lends itself to. What works least, however, is the film's "girl in a bear" suit gag. Putting one of your characters in a fuzzy animal costume (Gummo, or Donnie Darko) doesn't necessarily elevate your film's art-cred. (Th!nk)