MOVIE REVIEW – One of the biggest series of “grandchild” scams of the past decade is explored in Oscar-winning director Kristóf Deák’s new film in a “revenge thriller” and the story of a young man’s “coming of age”. Set in Hungarian reality, this multi-themed crime detective film is a bit too much to grasp, but it is both exciting and entertaining.
A very successful subject in the 1970s and 1980s, this revenge thriller drew many people to cinemas and screens later on. One only has to think of Charles Bronson’s Revenge, but many other film stars have played the role of a character seeking revenge for the death of a loved one or other grievances. In the more popular films, the little guy got his revenge because it made it easier for the audience to identify with the protagonist and the story was more interesting if the protagonist wasn’t a professional super-cop or a secret agent. We also had a Hungarian thriller with a similar theme: in Dögkeselyű, a taxi driver played by György Cserhalmi is robbed by two thieving old women and the man gets his revenge. The Hungarian film Kristóf Deák’s The Granddaughter, now in cinemas, also tells a story of fraud, inspired by sadly real events: the “granddaughter” scams of elderly people who steal from their grandchildren. Because, in Hungarian realism, it’s scams like this that are the most painful…
I almost believed it too…
Well, not in reality, but at the press screening of the film: in the opening scene of the film, grandfather Ferenc, played masterfully by Tamás Jordán, is so heartbreakingly scared, and the unscrupulous con man (Gábor Jászberényi), who is in contact with him by phone, is so professionally conning the poor man that I was also taken in by the first few minutes of the film. I only switched on fast enough because I remembered the cousin scams from the news.
This is also a tribute to Kristóf Deák’s opening scene, who starts his film brilliantly with this scene that whips up the viewer’s emotions, where Ferenc is humiliated, taken for a fool and finally robbed, with the bogus line that his grandson has been in a serious accident, which he caused and could go to jail if grandpa doesn’t pay up. (In addition, they steal not only the grandfather’s money, but also his cherished wristwatch, which literally makes him sick.)
But the grandson in question, Rudolf Rácz (Gergő Blahó), is safe and sound and is determined to investigate the case, track down the crooks and get his revenge. Of course, Rudolf is a simple little clerk, not a superhero or a master detective, so he has to use his own tools and skills to achieve this.
A detective thriller, neo-noir and coming-of-age story in Hungarian reality
One of the great virtues of the film is that it is exciting and twisty while being set in the grey Hungarian reality. The young writer struggling in a multinational company, the lonely grandfather in a dilapidated hospital, the conned pensioners in a separate group, the cynical, uncaring Hungarian cops, the raffish crooks (but still with a realistic character in certain scenes) are typical Hungarian characters. Even if in this respect the film is not up to the level of classic Hungarian films such as those of György Szomjas (Falfúró, Gengszterfilm), The Grandson does not lack social criticism, which is well portrayed.
This is also important, because it gives the film a neo-noir touch, which fits in well with the film. Neo noir was a favourite genre in European cinema of the eighties (especially in France), where the little man, often repressed in his own little world, workplace and private life, suddenly finds himself caught up in a messy and often hopeless crime story, fighting an increasingly desperate battle with unscrupulous criminals for his life in a cold and dangerous big city. The grandchild follows a somewhat similar motif, and it all fits perfectly with today’s Hungarian reality.
Entertaining and exciting
Of course, the basic aim of The Grandson is to entertain, which is an extremely important aspect for a Hungarian thriller, while the Hungarian film industry is almost drowning in a sea of often unpretentious romantic comedies that are just a crowd-pleaser. The great virtue of Unoka is that it is sufficiently tense and exciting, and the viewer will also be excited for the sympathetic protagonist played by Gergő Blahó and Zsuzsi (Laura Döbrösi), who joins him later on.
The film has perhaps two weak points, which unfortunately detract from the final result. There was also an ‘action scene’ and – I guess because of the low budget – the main actor told us in the interview that no stuntmen were used for these. Unfortunately, it shows: that particular action sequence is rather artificial, contrived and implausible and, as it is a very important part of the story, it is out of place in the otherwise well-constructed atmosphere of the film. On the other hand, the last twenty minutes of the film are a bit forced and this is especially true for the ending.
All in all, The Grandson is an exciting, entertaining and well-constructed detective revenge thriller and coming-of-age story. Perhaps, if it hadn’t tried to tell so much, but concentrated on the basic story, it could have been a Hungarian neo-noir, but it is still one of the better films of recent times – and that is true internationally.