REVIEW: ‘How I Fell in Love with a Gangster’ a Great Watch, but Way Too Long

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How I Fell In Love With A Gangster

I love a good crime drama—a meteoric rise to power followed by a gradual fall into oblivion. The stories always mimic a familiar structure. However, what makes How I Fell in Love With a Gangster, a Netflix original film, different is that the film is inspired by actual events.

Directed by Maciej Kawulski, the film follows the whirlwind life of Nikodem ‘Nikos’ Skotarczak played by Tomasz Wlosok. Watch as a working-class young polish boy climbs the ranks of the ‘City Boys’ organization that goes on to become ‘King of the Coast’ before multiple stints in the prison system and a laundry list of enemies become his final undoing.

Right off the bat, I’ll say that this is a very good watch within the realm of criminal enterprise movies. I’d typically call this a gangster film, but Nikos wasn’t a gangster, at least not in the traditional sense. He was a criminal, but a large part of his success was based around a ‘Robin Hood’ structure of business. He became a man of the people but wasn’t particularly known for drug pushing or ruling his territory through fear and violence.

Wlosok played the role so well, and he is undoubtedly the star that shines brightest in this production. The young actor oozes charisma, striking a balance in his performance that shows cunning, ambition, and an ability to outthink everyone around him. Wlosok not only plays the highs of Nikos well but also his decline as the character gets lost in the white lines of cocaine that were the pitfall of many career criminals.

The documentary-style narration from the characters involved in Niko’s life does a fantastic job of reinforcing the point of particular scenes. Still, I wish it had been used a little more rather than the direction to add in so many subplots.

The most significant problem of the film, and ultimately what will hold it back as being considered a great film, is the fact that’s it almost three hours in length. Very few films can pull off a time length like this unless it’s either a star-studded cast pumped full of money for well-produced performances or visuals or that it’s a spectacularly engaging story. Sadly this is neither.

It is a great story, but it becomes so muddied by the voluminous amount of sub-plots that it weighs the main plot down. From one vantage point, I can understand that Kawulski included these smaller stories as they inform the audience’s understanding of the character of Nikos. That being said, though, at some point, it just becomes too much, and as a director, you need to reassess the approach and condense the story down into a clear and concise vision that acutely gets the point across.

Another conflicting opinion I had was the aging up of characters in the film’s latter stages. It’s clearly visible that a lot more time was spent on Niko’s look, and he looks superb and more kudos towards Wlosok who’s acting underscores this change in look and the character’s change in personality over the decades. Sadly, on the other side of the coin, Dawid Ogrodnik, who plays Andrzej “Pershing” Kolikowski, the notoriously feared Polish gangster, had a cheap look with a very poor-looking bald cap and padding around the waist and what appeared to be shoulder pads. Pershing is a physically imposing, terrifying figure in history, yet in the film, he’s made to look like a teenager in a school play who’s wearing gear from the theater department to age up.

How I Fell in Love With a Gangster has the core of a really solid film, but its lack of selective editing results in a somewhat arduous three-hour watch. The performance from Wlosok carries the tone of the film, and he executes the role in such an engaging way. There’s an excellent story here if you can get past the unnecessary subplots that bog the film down.

How I Fell in Love With a Gangster is available now exclusively on Netflix.


How I Fell in Love With a Gangster
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

How I Fell in Love With a Gangster has the core of a really solid film, but its lack of selective editing results in a somewhat arduous three-hour watch. The performance from Wlosok carries the tone of the film, and he executes the role in such an engaging way. There’s an excellent story here if you can get past the unnecessary subplots that bog the film down.