Budapest explores ideas of ultimate entertainment and pleasurable sin whilst simultaneously not delivering that same experience to the viewing audience.
Netflix’s Budapest tells the story of two lifelong friends who are fed up with the same old rat race. Acting as the office underdogs and pathing the road for other people has brought them to their limits. A failed bachelor party seals the deal as they are faced with the reality of their depressing lives. With newfound confidence and a ‘now or never’ attitude, Vincent and Arnaud decide to turn their lives around by starting their own bachelor company, offering tourist trips like none you’ve ever seen before.
Budapest is funny in parts but unfortunately falls short of actually being a memorable comedy. The premise of the film provides plenty of content that could have been hilarious, with embarrassing situations and unique scenarios galore. Regrettably, it felt as though Budapest just scratched the surface of its potential. Arguably there are some hilarious moments, mainly provided in one-off interactions and dialogue. These limited jokes are too few and far between; Budapest attempts to marry the mundane with the bizarre but instead offers a clash of realities that tend to distract rather than complement the narrative. Budapest at its core is an underdog story, only the characters aren’t instinctively likable, but maybe that’s what makes them interesting. Audiences may relate to the protagonists’ yearn for something more as they take the step to finally leave their oppressed lives behind.
Giving themselves a second chance in life Vince and Arnaud decide to start a business in tourism, specifically taking on the task to entertain groups of rowdy men, promising them a party weekend they will never forget. As we can imagine this leads to plenty of scenarios that can only lead to a combination of paracetamol and a less than forgiving Bloody Mary the next day. Only Budapest isn’t as funny as it could have been, with mediocre jokes and mundane delivery, the movie tends to rely on moments of absurdity to create an audience response. These bizarre moments of outlandish slapstick and cringe dialogue are usually at the cost of another character’s way of life. Immature remarks on homosexuality, disability, weight and any many other ‘under the belt’ jokes create an atmosphere of graceless comedy. Budapest fails to be clever or intuitive with its script and although it feels as though it should be funny it often isn’t, leaving a stale impression behind in the place of satisfaction.
Vincent is played by French comedian Manu Payet. Payet’s character does everything by the book and it’s safe to say is the mature voice of reason. Payet is modest in his depiction of the ‘common man’ that is Vincent, as his character works to keep everyone grounded in the chaos that ensues. Arnaud, on the other hand, isn’t quite as controlled. Played by Jonathan Cohen, Arnaud acts as the devil’s advocate on Vincent’s shoulder. Cohen’s character represents the side of humans that wants to give in to temptation, working to be the ‘now or never go-getter’ in the face of adversity. The duo makes for a surprisingly ordinary pair; with little cooperation and a lack of back and forth dialogue their chemistry leaves much to be desired. On the other hand, the character Georgio is a welcome pleasure. Played by Monsieur Poulpe, Georgio offers hilarious moments of comic relief throughout what should already be a comedy.
Overall Budapest feels thoroughly confused in its delivery. The focus is being shifted periodically between home life and domestic relationships to ecstasy and hookers. One moment our protagonists are trying to stop a man from leaping from the roof in a suicide attempt and the next moment they are talking shares with their disapproving wives. The juxtaposition should work as a reality check, grounding the audience, to remind us of the complete foolishness of their situations. Only these ‘reality checks’ only disrupt the pace of the movie, taking the audience away from the fun as we watch pointless qualms and painfully boring disputes. Furthermore, the women of Budapest are either depicted as props of objectification or ‘ball crushers’ with only the goal to stop ‘boys from being boys’. Budapest feels a little bit too lazy in character depiction, relying too heavily on comedy that we’ve already seen in films such as The Hangover or Get Him to the Greek. Unfortunately, Budapest was essentially stale and impressionable, the potential was there but it never quite had enough heart.
Budapest is available globally on Netflix from March 1, 2019. Check out the rest of our Netflix coverage by clicking these words.
Maggie has been a film critic for Ready Steady Cut since 2018. Maggie gained a BSc in Film Production and Technology leading to her most notable credit for the production designer for a short film screened as part of the London Film Festival line up.