Not that I should be surprised that other countries make films, but… I don’t know, Hungary making their own animated films seems random to me. America, Japan, even France, sure, but Hungary? I would never have guessed. Nothing wrong with it, it’s just… Hungary? Really? Hey, what do I care if the movie’s good?
I could barely get a grasp of what the movie was about based on the one trailer I saw, but it seems to be about a psychologist who has nightmares about famous paintings. There’s also a possible subplot involving a woman who is in danger from a dangerous man. Truth is, I got nothin’.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Iván Kamarás (SPY  and HELLBOY II: GOLDEN ARMY ), Gabriella Hámori (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of), and Zalán Makranczi (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of).
Now for the crew. Directing, co-writing, and co-editing, we have Milorad Krstic, making his feature film debut. Congrats, sir. Krstic’s partner-in-pen is Radmila Roczkov, making her writing debut. Congrats, miss. Composing the score is Tibor Cári, known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of. Finally, making for a grand total of four editors, we have in addition to Krstic, Marcell Laszlo, Danijel Milosevic, and László Wimmer, all making their editorial debuts. Congrats, everyone.
So this is a pretty big movie for the talent behind the scenes. It’s almost everyone’s first film, or feature-length film. That’s gotta be exciting. And with such an interesting animation style, I’m sure this is going to be a trip.
This is my honest opinion of: RUBEN BRANDT, COLLECTOR
Doctor Ruben Brandt (voiced by Iván Kamarás) is an art therapist, specializing in reforming individuals with their kleptomania. However, the doctor is suffering from nightmares involving himself being violently killed by famous paintings. Simultaneously, one of Ruben’s patients, an expert thief named Mimi (voiced by Gabriella Hámori) is trying to lay low as Detective Mike Kowalski (voiced by Zalán Makranczi) is hot on her trail. She soon learns that Ruben suffers from his nightmares and plots to help him by enlisting his other patients by stealing the thirteen famous paintings that are the subject of his anguish.
Well, you can’t say this isn’t a weird movie. However, that’s part of why I almost love this movie. Is it perfect? No, but this is definitely going to be a criminally overlooked animated flick.
Aside from a fascination and respect for animation, one of the bigger reasons why I was able to accept the strange character designs is that these characters are aware that they’re drawings. Sort of. Like, one character is a two-dimensional drawing, it’s acknowledged and it’s a normal thing to them. It’s that kind of world. Also, the artistic designs for these characters are an absolute trip. There may be some repetition, like with the horse-like long faces on many of the main characters, but even those have their distinct qualities about them that make them memorable. Even something superficial, like a wider mouth, or three eyes, shit like that. And there’s seldom a constant choice in animation style. Some of it looks hand-drawn and others are clearly 3D computer-generated. One would think the clashing of styles like this would be jarring, or invasive, but actually it works wondrously and fits within the world that’s established. I loved it.
Even the comedy is really funny. There’s a bit where some baby is crying hysterically and and Mimi is walking toward it. She steals a pacifier from another baby and gives it to the crying one. Even the kid who got his pacifier stolen looks at Mimi like, “Bitch, what the hell?!” I had to bite my arm to prevent myself from bursting out laughing. There’s another bit where the thieves are driving down the street and then get surrounded by cops. The initial impression is that they’ve been caught and they’re going to jail. But no! They run right by them and up the museum steps that the thieves just walked out of. It’s absolutely hilarious.
<<<SPOILERS>>> [ I even like the reason why Ruben suffers from his nightmares. It turns out that his father was former CIA and when Ruben was a child, he subjected him to subliminal imagery involving the paintings, which manifested into the nightmares he’s now suffering as an adult. Somehow, that seemed incredibly clever to me. ] <<<END SPOILERS>>>
However, the movie is imperfect, though not atrociously.
One of the more minor drawbacks is that the animation does get a little self-indulgent at times. Don’t get me wrong, I hope the animators are proud of what they’ve created here. But when it becomes clear that they’re proud and just showing off, say, showing off a 3D fish slowly swimming by the screen as means to transition between scenes, or a uncomfortably holding on a mosquito crawling up Mike’s arm and sucking his blood, it got a little obvious that the animators were just high on themselves.
There’s also a weird narrative beat where Ruben is talking to his own psychologist about the nightmares that he’s having and when he does the classic “eh, I don’t want to talk about it,” the psychologist flies off the handle and is all like, “Ruben, if you don’t let me help you, you’re going to kill yourself, or someone else!” Um… I don’t think that’s how nightmares work, dude. Unless your last patient was this guy.
In any case, that doctor took things from zero to a hundred and it was really jarring and unprofessional. It’s not like Ruben has a history of self-mutilation. Or if he does, then it’s not made clear in his backstory. It’s only a second long, but by God, I couldn’t get over it.
Also, I don’t buy that Ruben would just immediately go for being a thief. He’s a professional psychologist, for crying out loud. If he’s going to turn to a life of crime, there has to be some major reasons why. So far, Mimi taking one painting and that solving one nightmare, for that one night, none of this should spark the idea that he could commit crimes of this magnitude. If a pattern were to show up, then fine, but this was a huge shift in character that makes little to no sense.
Also, a lot of plot points go nowhere. It’s revealed that Mimi works for a gangster named Vincenzo. More than a few scenes are dedicated to him and he’s also given a pretty fun personality. He avoided the art world, believing it not to be as profitable as prostitution or cocaine, but it turned around when Mimi starts helping Ruben steal billions worth of famous paintings. However, this goes nowhere. Okay, sure, he sends his henchmen after her and there’s a fun fight scene involving them, but Vincenzo is left completely by the wayside, and we never know if he simply gives up on finding Mimi, or if some deal was struck to get him to back off, nothing it resolved.
And here’s a big surprise. We got a couple of scenes where we learn that Mike doesn’t know who his father is and it’s revealed that it’s actually Ruben’s father, making him a half-brother to Ruben. Again, for such a dramatic and important reveal, one would think the two characters would meet and hash things out. Nope. That never happens. They never meet at all, in fact. So what does this reveal truly mean if it doesn’t mean anything to the characters? There’s also some build-up for these two characters who seem like friends, but one of them, John Cooper (voiced by Paul Bellantoni), knows Ruben as “the Collector” as he’s going on his thieving spree, and his supposed friend is hunting Ruben. Two things: one, Ruben and John are not shown to have a relationship, which makes the second problem, that John is murdered by this other guy, whom we think is a friend. This would imply that this man is on the hunt for Ruben and is going to make a beeline for him, but nope, we never see this character again. John’s death means nothing, the revelation of the Collector’s identity, none of it makes money.
That’s another of the drawbacks. There’s no real ending. It doesn’t even feel like it ends, but rather stops. Once Mike discovers who his father is, I don’t think we ever see him again… sort of. Ruben and the thieves have went their separate ways, and Ruben’s on a train going to Ambiguous-ville, but in the reflection is Mike’s face. Um… movie? Movie! Movie, my hand is up! I have questions! Primarily, WHAT THE HELL?! What the hell was that supposed to mean?! Is Mike not real? Is Ruben really Mike? Is Mike really Ruben? Explain, movie!
Overall, this movie is a visual trip. It’s unlike anything that I’ve seen in animation in a long time, and that’s saying something off the cusp of the Oscar-winning SPIDER-VERSE and nominated ISLE OF DOGS, this is far wilder than anything you’ll get from those. I won’t say it’s a more enjoyable, or even a better film, but it’s a wild freakin’ ride. As a recommendation, hell yeah, I say check it out, especially if you want something wildly different from other animated films. It might be pretty hard to find, but if you can find it, seriously, check it out.
My honest rating for RUBEN BRANDT, COLLECTOR: a strong 4/5
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