Whatever Netflix’s other troubles at the moment, the fact that the might-have-peaked streamer gave Polish director Mateusz Rakowicz his first feature film credit, and that it’s “The Getaway King,” stands them in good stead in my book.
A bracing, laugh-out-loud cap
er comedy/biography, it practically bounces off the screen, no matter what screen you’re watching it on. When you’re dropped into the middle of a nightclub for a Polish chanteuse’s enthusiastic cover of Kiki Dee’s “I’ve Got the Music in Me,” in Polish, “jaunty” is the only word that covers it.
“Getaway” is a fanciful “inspired by” account of the late career of a Warsaw Pact era Polish folk hero, thief and escape-from-police-custody wizard Zdzisław “Najmro” Najmrodzki.
Given a charismatic dash by a mustachioed Dawid Ogrodnik (“Ida,” “Oleg”) and sympathetically portrayed in a picture with slo-mo style and comic flair, we’re treated to the way the guy probably saw himself, as a swinging, beloved and hip “Robin Hood,” providing goods for “the people” when the Russian-dominated “state” failed them.
Najmro likes his double-breasted suits, fancy watches and sunglasses, and he likes to flash cash in Warsaw’s discos. Yes, it’s 1988, but the Eastern Bloc abandoned disco and double-breasted a bit later than the rest of us.
He’s famous for breaking into Pemex import stores and selling on their pricey wares to the locals. Everybody knows who he is. With his face plastered all over TV (a version of “Poland’s Most Wanted” is seen on the tube) who couldn’t? But they let him slide, even the ticket seller (Marta Wagrocka) he tries to sweet talk out of posters at the local cinema.
He needs the posters to cover the holes in the walls he and his crew (Jokobn Gierzal, Sandra Drzymalska, Andrzej Andrzejewski) create and crawl through for the heists. Terezka’s way of playing hard to get is to force Najmro to buy ten tickets to a movie nobody wants to see just to get his posters.
Could love be in the air?
“The Getaway King” doesn’t spend much time on robberies, although Najmro is credited as the guy who figured out the Achilles heel of stealable Euro-cars of the era. It’s more concerned with the capers Najmro deploys to bust out of jail. Because even though no one wants to turn him in, he gets caught — a lot. But give him his say in court and the speech will end with a tumble out an open window. Let him exercise in the prison yard and one moment he’s there, the next he’s vanished.
Twenty eight escapes says a lot about the state of communist Poland’s militia/state police. But this gruff cagey lieutenant (Robert Wieckiewicz) they’ve brought in from the provinces could change that, if his hapless assistant (Rafał Zawierucha) can stop screwing up long enough.
The film sets up a game of “tag” between crook and cop, with each “You’re IT” polished off with a punch, kick or head-butt.
Our chivalrous crook even lends a hand when their life-threatening Fiat-vs-Lada chase ends the way all such chases ended back then — in flames.
By not dwelling on the crimes, the movie shortchanges us on the wit and wisdom of our master thief, who instructs his crew that there are “four types of clients,” the sort of greedy folks who buy stolen sunglasses, watches or cars — “The professor (a knowitall),” “the pushover (pretends he’s a professor),” “the negotiator…just wants to put on a show” and “the looker,” who may not buy without coercion.
But that doesn’t deprive us of the fun of the time travel (Poland’s pre-Soviet collapse 1980s looked a lot like the mid-’70s here) the good natured hustling by the crooks, and the dogged police work by that one militiaman who may have this guy’s number.
Whatever other cutbacks you make, Netflix, keep a little mad money around to make sure Rakowicz and his crew are still on the payroll. In Polish with subtitles, or dubbed into English, “The Getaway King” is a thoroughly charming rogue packed into a perfectly entertaining caper comedy.
Rating: TV-MA, violence, gunplay, sex, nudity, smoking
Cast: Dawid Ogrodnik, Robert Wieckiewicz, Marta Wagrocka, Rafał Zawierucha, Jokobn Gierzal, Sandra Drzymalska, Andrzej Andrzejewski and Dorata Kolak.
Credits: Directed by Mateusz Rakowicz, scripted by Łukasz M. Maciejewski and Mateusz Rakowicz. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:40