Published Nov 17, 2012Without substantial variation from the "odd couple" format, wherein an unlikely duo forms a bond that is challenged by a looming conflict or their inherent difference, Bence Miklauzic's quirky comedy, Children of the Green Dragon, works within the confines of mainstream tropes to entertain while offering minor social discourse. As such, it's a minor work for the veteran television director that says more about the limitations of the Hungarian film system—hesitant to allow art and commerce to meld—than it does about Miklauzic as an auteur.
Like most cinematic tales of friendship, which pivot, in part, on the reluctant defeat or repression of the ego as key to connection, Dragon starts with isolation and loneliness, as Janos (Zoltan Ratoti) is tasked with selling a suburban factory by his callous employer. In going through the motions of his job, Janos is confronted with Wu (Yu Debin), someone of a similar, albeit more externally evident, emotional disposition, inhabiting the factory to protect the many (likely) illegal boxed goods.
With Janos being a bit of a deflated stick in the mud and Wu being an idiosyncratic force of nature, the inevitable pair bond unfolds comically and traditionally, with the reluctant Janos eventually lightening up and establishing trust. The conflict that challenges their connection comes in the form of social commentary with Wu having to sabotage a potential factory sale, lest his mobster employers withhold his passport from him and keep him from returning to China where he has promises of running a football team.
Exacerbating this conflict is the addition of a sarcastic, scooter-driving pizza delivery girl (Eszter Banfalvy) that both men take a shining to.
With comic trajectories of soccer ball kicking competitions and the routine exploration of the various toys and goods held within the many boxes in the factory, this standard tale of personal motivations challenged by morality and loyalty unfolds without an abundance of surprise. It's entirely affable and even somewhat charming as a superficial character piece but offers nothing to the genre that hasn't been reiterated ad nauseum.
Still, Miklauzic does demonstrate a natural storytelling affinity that, while commercial and bland, is a talent unto itself. Similarly, the trio of cast members are all likable in their respective roles, helping with the overall engagement factor in a functional, forgettable and mildly charming work of banality.
Children of the Green Dragon screens on Sunday, November 18th at 6pm at the Royal. (Mythberg Films)