Top tip for watching “Lesson Plan (Plan lekcji),” a new thriller available on Netflix in its original Polish (with subtitles) or dubbed into English. Don’t look away from the screen to check your phone or dash into the kitchen for a snack.
You won’t miss a fight, considering how long these brawls are. But you won’t know how it started.
Our hero, the undercover cop nicknamed Jiu Jitsu (Piotr Witkowski), is always getting into scrapes — jumped at the liquor store, intervening when some homophobes pick on a lesbian couple at a bar. Some of the punchouts are to be expected. After all, he’s on the illegal fentanyl beat. But even after he takes on a job as a high school history teacher, he’s tested. And tested again.
The “measly history teacher” is always taunted. And he’s always ready with a come-back. “You’re about to BE history!”
“You hit like a WOMAN!” “Clearly, we know DIFFERENT women!”
Yes, what we have here is a straight-up B-picture, the “plot” an excuse for getting into the next fight, and then the next one, the brawls always pausing for pithy one-liners and the fighting staged at fight-choreographer 3/4 speed.
But it’s got a few laughs, and the fights are fun if a tad telegraphed.
Our hero is outed as undercover, wholly capable of beating and shooting his way out of that jam, but not in time to save his wife. He crawls into a bottle, only to crawl back out when his high school teacher brother (Marcin Bosak) is murdered, possibly framed for being his school’s one-man fentanyl food chain.
He will be the “measly history teacher” at problematic Jan Sobieski High, the worst of the worst high schools, where bullying and drugs and shakedowns are on the curriculum, and the teachers and administrators all but helpless in the face of all this.
Jiu Jitsu, who has to go by Damian — his real name — tries to comfort his enraged nephew, a student there and a kid who knows his dad tried to get uncle Damian to help before he was killed. Damian also starts laying down the law to the bullies and goons who roam the halls and starts looking out for the cute fellow teacher (Roma Gasiorowska) who finds herself caught between students and drug dealers and gangsters and this history teacher who isn’t above teaching his students a little self-defense while quoting that historical figure Bruce Lee.
It’s a slick looking film, even if its plot points and “surprises” are as obvious as the low-speed head-butts, punches and kicks we see coming from a mile off.
Witkowski, a supporting player stepping into his first leading man role, has charisma to burn and decent comic timing — for the one-liners — and is more credible in the fights than the fights themselves. If he gets the handle on fight choreography — fighting at full speed in future films — he could be Poland’s Jason Statham.
Not a bad goal, because that from Portland to Portugal to Pyonyang, B-movie action pics play.
Rating: TV-MA, nonstop violence, drug content
Cast: Piotr Witkowski, Marcin Bosak, Roma Gasiorowska
Credits: Directed by Daniel Markowicz, scripted by Daniel Bernardi. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:39