Keri O’Shea is astounded by more insane Polish exploitation cinema.
I have acquainted myself with the cinematic output of director Patryk Vega before and let me tell you, it’s a worthwhile endeavour – plus, a steep cultural learning curve. Not that I’m suggesting that his cinema is representative of Poland, mind, as I said when I reviewed his medical melodrama Botoks – but certainly, his particular vision would never get realised here, because this kind of film is simply too riotously OTT, too inappropriate. And, better still, where Botoks tended towards the deadly serious at certain points, Women of Mafia (Kobiety mafii) is an altogether different prospect – a kind of love letter to crime thrillers which permits itself a certain graphic, inexplicable, almost childlike and relentless joie de vivre.
Working with many of the same cast here as he has previously, we are introduced to Iza (Olga Boladz), a diligent policewoman trying to bust the local mafia; however, her big idea to lure them out with the promise of World Cup tickets goes awry and she gets sacked after a debacle involving what look like very real Polish thugs. Life goes on for our plucky Iza, though, and she gets a new role working underground to uncover criminal activity, going after the mafia again. The recruitment process cares not a fig for any manner of health and safety, so after getting waterboarded for a bit, she’s apparently given the job and can make a start.
Her brief is to get up close and personal with the mob and prevent them from selling drugs in Scandinavia; obviously, she does this by becoming a pole dancer, and, credit to Boladz, she does the dancing herself – no unnecessary body doubles here, no way. There is a lot of rather convoluted gang activity (why have one heist when you can have several?) and I’ll be honest, some of the finer plot points were lost amidst the rather wonderful rabble, with time set aside for an abundance of sex scenes and a few graphic beatings. Happily, Cieniu (Sebastian Fabijansk) a.k.a. the guy Iza – or ‘Bela’ as she’s now known – has to seduce is very easy on the eye, and Vega is considerate enough to show him in all his glory at regular intervals. This film isn’t just for straight men. No indeed.
Things go a tad Breaking (Very) Bad thereafter, with a lot of time spent on detailing the drug trade taking place as ‘Bela’ tries to hunt these criminal types down. Cieniu gets sent to jail; his idiotic wife Anna (Katarzyna Warnke) struggles for hard cash in a few hilarious sequences, and then the cast and crew get treated to a few spurious trips to the major capitals of Europe and further afield – because why wouldn’t you if you can get the funding for it? There seems to be some amount of money behind these films – not masses, but then the use of varied locations (we go to Copenhagen, Malmo and Morocco during this film) suggests a few Zloty flying about the place. The content itself lurches from moments of camp comedy into rather grisly violence, and the film’s only real crime (though never boring) is that it comes in at way over two hours, but the journey itself is definitely entertaining, massively excessive and oddly… refreshing. It all smacks of a sort of juvenile glee and determination on Vega’s part to make the film he bloody well wants to make, choc-full of hilarious dialogue, nudity, violence and profanity. Any film which contains the immortal line – spoken as someone is about to get their leg chainsawed off – “Fuck it, I’ll get a prosthetic. You’ll never notice through trousers” deserves to be seen.
And if Women of Mafia demonstrates a flair for bloody-mindedness, then the sequel is better still.
Women of Mafia 2 picks up where the last film ended, with Daria (Agnieszka Dygant), the erstwhile nanny to Cieniu and Anna’s son, now a formidable drug-dealing battleaxe in her own right. Anna (Warnke) is in jail herself, trying to get her life back together whilst getting trained in martial arts by her cellmate; one of the other girls, Siekiera (Aleksandra Poplawska) still resides in Morocco, where we left her – only now she’s in love with an IS fighter, because of course she is.
This time around Vega has managed to shoot part of the film in South America, because cocaine features in the plot. He manages to get part of it shot in Berlin as well. As per, the rest of the film comprises various double-dealing, grisly executions, car chases, explosions, nudity and for good measure, a bear on a pushbike. There is a frequent Tourette’s skit in this film too, because the rampant -isms which pepper the film can’t be seen to ignore such things indefinitely and it’s a good excuse to have someone involuntarily hurling wine glasses around. Meanwhile, the comic performance given by Warnke as she goes from utter idiot to lucky idiot is absolutely hilarious – I had to watch the scene twice where she auditions a load of guys as dancers for her new venture, a ladies’ club. It is genuinely extraordinary.
Quite honestly, the people panning these films on IMDb are way off and can’t have understood what they were getting themselves into. That’s the only explanation. Go into these films with the right attitude, and what you have here is pure exploitation cinema, doing and saying things you would simply never get anywhere else. I was so hugely entertained by these films that I cried with laughter on several occasions and had to scroll back through the screeners to assure myself that yes, that character really had said that thing I couldn’t rightly believe. Yes, these are long films and yes, they are absolutely crammed with meandering plotlines, but if films are still permitted to be silly and offensive and excessive, then there is so much here to enjoy that it would be wrong of me to try and keep them to myself.
I’ll say it once more for the people at the back. There is a bear. On a pushbike.