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FILMS / REVIEWS Poland

Review: Bad Boy

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- Polish hitmaker Patryk Vega’s new film, in which football meets mafia thriller, is out on Netflix in Poland just six weeks after its theatrical release

Review: Bad Boy
Antoni Królikowski in Bad Boy

If there is any director in Poland who is immune to the COVID-19 scare and filming ban, it’s Patryk Vega, who continued shooting his upcoming film in March. He shrugged off multiple appeals to shut down the set, including one from the Directors Guild of Poland (which Vega is not part of). He now makes three films a year, most of them racking up at least one million admissions in Poland, and he seems unstoppable. His modus operandi is well established – he researches an industry or a theme (politics, medicine, the police, special forces, injustice), chooses the juiciest stories and builds a film around them. Some critics compare his works to doner kebabs, calling them cinematic fast food, both in terms of their production pace and their nutritional value. However, the audience clearly loves his movies, and so do actors – Vega usually assembles an impressive cast of Polish leading stars who normally work in the theatre or on arthouse films, such as Joanna Kulig (Ida [+see also:
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interview: Pawel Pawlikowski
interview: Pawel Pawlikowski
film profile
]
, Cold War
 [+see also:
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Q&A: Pawel Pawlikowski
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]
), Maja Ostaszewska (Body [+see also:
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interview: Malgorzata Szumowska
interview: Malgorzata Szumowska
film profile
]
), Magdalena Cielecka (United States of Love [+see also:
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interview: Tomasz Wasilewski
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), Katarzynka Warnke (Mister T. [+see also:
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) and Maciej Stuhr (33 Scenes from Life [+see also:
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).

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In Bad Boy [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, which was released on Netflix in Poland just six weeks after opening in the cinemas, Stuhr plays a good cop, Piotr, to his evil brother Paweł (Antoni Królikowski), a criminal. When they were kids, Paweł killed their abusive father, who was also a dedicated football fan – or, rather, a hooligan. Now Paweł is following in his footsteps, as he is the violence-prone leader of the local “hoolies”. He wants to go big: he plots to take over a beloved football club and earn piles of money by selling drugs. Piotr starts an investigation into his brother with the help of Ola (Katarzyna Zawadzka, Vega’s new muse), an undercover cop and lawyer, who pretends to be Piotr’s fiancée as part of her act. She starts to infiltrate the evil brother’s world and, of course, falls for him in the process, also because he is a much better lover than Piotr.

In Vega’s world, women crave thrills and power just as much as men do, and this is likely to be one of the themes that resonate so well with the female audience and cast. Bad Boy is a good showcase of the Polish helmer’s style – there are many violent scenes, some car chases, drone shots and snappy, obscenity-laden dialogue. What seems to be an underlying notion in Vega’s films (see, for example, the Mafia Women diptych or the Pitbull [+see also:
trailer
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trilogy) is the universal sense of deep distrust of all kinds of systems – medical, political, justice, you name it. It’s a jungle out there, and the only way to thrive, get even or often survive, is to use the mindless and uncompromising language of the fist: to jab at people instead of reasoning, and to connive instead of arguing or negotiating. Poland, with its general mistrust of government and public institutions, is a prime target for Vega’s dark and – hopefully paranoid – visions. His films don’t just provide simple, fast-food-like entertainment, but maybe on a deeper level also exorcise the fear that we are living in the very worst possible world. And so why would anyone give a damn about a pandemic that simply comes and goes?

Bad Boy was produced by Patryk Vega through Polish outfit Vega Investments. The Polish distributor is Kino Świat, and the film has been available on Netflix in Poland since 8 April.

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