How I Became a Gangster
December 23, 2023

Movie Review

How I Became a Gangster

The Polish crime drama “How I Became a Gangster,” directed by Maciej Kawulski, presents a distinctive approach to the gangster film genre. Premiering on Netflix, the film is rooted in the streets of Warsaw, chronicling the life of an unnamed protagonist as he climbs the ladder of the criminal underworld. This setting and premise might sound typical for a gangster narrative, but the film differentiates itself in several notable ways.

One of the film’s unique aspects is its expansive storyline. While many gangster movies focus on a specific period or pivotal moment in the protagonist’s life, “How I Became a Gangster” takes a broader sweep, tracing the main character’s journey from early influences to the apex of his criminal career. This comprehensive portrayal provides an in-depth look at his evolution, marked by significant relationships and conflicts, including a complex bond with a fellow gang member, Walden, and challenges within his marriage.

Moreover, the film breaks away from genre norms with its exploration of character dynamics and emotional depth. The protagonist’s relationship with Walden is portrayed with a level of emotional complexity rarely seen in traditional gangster films. This bond, filled with loyalty, love, and eventual conflict, adds a rich layer to the narrative, culminating in a dramatic and unexpected conclusion.

Despite these innovations, the film has been critiqued for adhering to some formulaic elements typical of the gangster genre. It has faced criticism for its portrayal of women, who are depicted more as ornamental figures than as integral parts of the story, and for relying on familiar tropes of the genre.

Technically, the film’s cinematography and direction have been lauded. The intense moments and action sequences in the film are skillfully captured, contributing significantly to the film’s dramatic impact. The cinematography by Bartek Cierlica and direction by Maciej Kawulski work together to create a visually striking and emotionally charged cinematic experience.

“How I Became a Gangster” thus stands as a film that both embraces and challenges the conventions of its genre. While it features some standard elements of gangster movies, its broad narrative scope, deep character relationships, and technical prowess provide a fresh take on the familiar narrative of crime and ascent in the underworld. However, its adherence to certain clichés and less nuanced portrayals in some areas indicate that the film navigates a complex path between innovation and tradition in the gangster genre.

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