Netflixable? “Bartkowiak,” a Polish MMA thriller that flatlines, almost from the start

As MMA has supplanted “the sweet science” of boxing in the sporting world, so the MMA melodramatic thriller has replaced “the fight picture” as a genre staple.

Everything we see in the Polish made-for-Netflix thriller “Bartkowiak” we’ve seen in half a century of boxing movies. Gangsters masquerading as “entrepreneurs,” a beaten fighter struggling to regain his manhood by defending the family, intimidation and murders aimed at securing coveted Polish real estate, the ex-girlfriend who is the daughter of the hero’s trainer.

“Bartkowiak” opens with our hero, the champ, Tomasz (Józef Pawlowski) losing his title to a tattooed brute. It ends with our hero, beating his way up through the ranks to get to the evil developer (a “redundant” description, even in Poland) who wants to get ahold of the family nightclub.

Almost everything in between is dead screen time as the movie utterly flatlines without high stakes, life and deal brawling.

Tomasz’s manager/brother (Antoni Pawlicki) barely has time to gift his sibling with a vintage Mach One Mustang before he dies in a wreck. Tomasz will have to give up his job as head bouncer at a swanky club and take over the siblings’ nightclub.

That means another run-in with the punk rapper Sleepy D (Rafal Zawierucha) and his entourage of bodyguards. That means facing down the guy (Bartlomiej Topa) who covets this whole part of their beloved city for his new office tower project.

Zofia Domalik is the lawyer once-and-future girlfriend, Janusz Chabior is her dad, the bald trainer/corner man who lost everything when the champ lost his last fight.

I’d say more about this, but there’s no dialogue (in Polish, with English subtitles, or dubbed into English) worth quoting and the assorted assaults — threatening a butcher in the deli with butchery, a beat-down on the exclusive golf course — are by-the-book basic and boring.

Cast: Józef Pawlowski, Zofia Domalik, Janusz Chabior, Bartlomiej Topa and
Rafal Zawierucha

Credits: Directed by Daniel Markowicz, script by Daniel Bernardi and Monika Slawecka. A Neflix release.

Running time: 1:31

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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