Croatia | 112 MINUTES | Croatian |
TWO PLAYERS FROM THE BENCH
Interethnic tensions and the bitter legacy of war crimes in the former Yugoslavia provide the black comic grist for Two Players from the Bench, one of the first films from the troubled region that openly addresses these explosive topics. Ante and Duško, a Croat and a Serb, find themselves dragooned by a mysterious government functionary and held captive in a deserted military base on the outskirts of Zagreb. There the two former volleyball players are briefed on their roles in a convoluted plan to exonerate a Croat military officer, Colonel Skoko, from his war crimes indictment. Offered 20,000 Euros to impersonate two of Skoko's ex-officers and supply exculpatory testimony in The Hague, the two reluctantly agree. But their captor/employer isn't being totally honest with them, and a host of complications soon ensue: a Ukrainian sex slave enters the picture, Ante and Dusko have trouble keeping their cover stories straight, and Ante's lack of an identifying scar forces him to come up with ever more elaborate explanations in front of the International War Crimes Tribunal. By turns darkly comic and disturbingly Kafkaesque, Two Players from the Bench eschews the easy path of making the two ancient enemies become fast friends while in captivity. The performances are uniformly stellar, especially Goran Navojec as Ante, the burlier of the two men. With his antic mannerisms and arched eyebrows, he seems at times to be channeling the spirit of John Belushi, and could probably find a lucrative career in U.S. comedy if Croatian cinema proves insufficiently remunerative.