‘How I Fell in Love with a Gangster’ is a Polish crime drama that follows the life of Nikodem ‘Nikos’ Skotarczak. Based on true stories, the film tries to document the life of the notorious gangster as told by various sources. The film fails to be an engrossing watch, leaving the audience with three hours of terrible filmmaking and inconsistent storytelling. How I Fell In Love With A Gangster hoped to be a lot of things but did not manage to excel in any of the inspired ideas or styles. The rise of ‘Nikos’ in Poland and his expansion of business, along with the constant threat of the law, is shown in this film. The death of the gangster is kept mysterious with multiple interpretations that come with several enemies of the hoodlum.
The Birth Of The Tiger
How I Fell In Love With A Gangster quotes Nikos, “It is better to live a year as a tiger than twenty years as a turtle.” This is a force that drove Nikos and his life. From a young age, Nikos resonated with the words “tiger” and “king.” In the communist era, Nikos learned the trick of scamming foreigners from sailors. He watched the sailors take foreign currency in exchange for which they paid little and even delivered fake currency. Nikos knew this could be his trade. While his sister and little brother went to school, Nikos spent time at the docks.
As time went by, Nikos grew up to be a skilled rugby player, though the team and especially his coach lacked enthusiasm. We are introduced to Nikos’s close friend, Komo, who will stick by Nikos through thick and thin. As the team was busy practicing, Inkblot, a local criminal, was having a fight with his ex-girlfriend. Nikos had his eyes on her, and the two got intimate later on. It was Nikos’s first time with a woman; she would be an integral part of his life. The rugby players were a team during the day, but by night they would turn into bouncers who protected the nightclubs.
As Nikos hit a man for abusing his teammate, Inkblot tried to explain to him the importance of not being too prominent in their business. Inkblot also advised Nikos about amber and called it the “Amber Rush,” much like the “gold rush,” though other than a single shot of amber mining, nothing much was discussed. It was one of the many aspects that How I Fell In Love With A Gangster chose to show but never really elaborated on.
Nikos traveled to Budapest to try his luck, something that a lot of people did during the 70s while going from the East to the West. He started scamming people who were visiting Hungary and wanted to exchange their currency. This is when he met a German police officer, the man who was going to see the end of Nikos. His men punched the officer before realizing his position and leaving the scene. He gradually became a wealthy man by robbing the people of the West.
When he came to Tricity, he lived a luxurious life. Nikos met his first wife one night at a club, though their love was short-lived. Due to her mental health, his wife gave birth to a child, but soon committed suicide. With his rise, his enemies grew, but Nikos was determined to live the life of a tiger.
As luck would have it, Nikos met a woman whom he named “Jet”. He wanted her to be his, as a result of which he kept her at his place and provided her with luxury. Soon after, he met his second wife, an influential woman. Helena’s brother introduced him to the profit that lay in stealing cars. This was a turning point in Nikos’s life.
Cars, Money, And A Soccer Team
In the last years of the 70s, Nikos’s brother-in-law introduced him to Captain Mark Stapler, of the Polish militia, and his wife, who ran the Department of Transportation. Nikos’s gang was famous for auto robberies by then. Captain Stapler could help him to keep the details of his thefts hidden, and Nikos could also get all the help necessary from his wife as well. Nikos decided to make his operation grander than it was before. Nikos could now legitimize his stolen cars and sell them again.
In the 80s, Nikos stole as many cars as he could with the help of his trusted friend, Komo, from Hamburg, and sold them in Poland. Stealing cars back in those days was an easier job due to the lack of technology. As the papers were legitimate, they did not face any trouble while crossing borders with the stolen car. With the money earned, Nikos decided to buy the Lechia team. Though the team was terrible to begin with, Nikos put in all his profit to create a better team. By bringing in skilled players and better equipment, he made sure that the team won the National Cup of Poland, making the ordinary people fall in love with Nikos.
Encounter With The Police
As Nikos managed to escape the law with his affluent contacts, it was on a drunken night that he let loose. While driving with a sex worker and Komo in a stolen car, Nikos was followed by the police and was eventually arrested. He was brought to the German police officer who was once beaten by Nikos’s men. The officer asked Nikos to testify about his crimes, considering how he would eventually end up in prison. He did not agree and was sent to prison. Nikos read the book “Zorba the Greek” by the author Nikos Kazantzakis, quite telling of his obsession with himself.
As months went by, locked inside the prison, Nikos attempted suicide by slitting his wrist. As a result, he was shifted to the psychiatry ward. He was kept in isolation and spent his days idly. As Sylvio, Nikos’s criminal partner, was released from an Italian prison, he made up a plan to rescue Nikos. He believed that without the man himself, business could never run smoothly. This is when, one day, Komo visited Nikos with his younger brother, who was ready to switch places with him. As the guards were a bit distracted, they changed their clothes, and Nikos left prison dressed like his brother, who accompanied Komo. They rejoiced in their elaborate escape and also in the fact that they could fool the police so easily. Nikos gradually became greatly addicted to cocaine, and most of his days were spent in a high state of mind.
While the chase with law enforcement continued, Nikos lost his brother, mother, and first mother-in-law in an accident. This completely broke Nikos. Finally, the police were able to catch hold of Nikos while he left his den to buy flowers. He served for two years and was released. He was determined to be back in business, but time was not in his favor.
‘How I Fell In Love With A Gangster’ Ending Explained
As Nikos was released from prison, he attempted to be a more present father to his children. He even went for a parent-teacher meeting with his daughter. Nikos tried to make a deal with Forrester and Rozek, who were known to smuggle booze. Komo tried to make Nikoz understand the complexities involved in the business, but Nikos was hell-bent on doing what he desired.
Nikos’s enemies also grew in size after his separation with Sylvio after an argument. The police tried to convince Nikos to confess and provide details of his associate’s business. They promised to keep him safe from the many who were planning to murder him. Nikos rejected that option as he had always wanted to survive as a tiger and to never play safe. He spent thousands of his money at the casino. At a film festival, he overdosed on cocaine and was left bleeding. Nikos knew that his days were numbered. He went to Jet, the woman who comforted him throughout his life, and discussed how he knew he would be murdered soon enough. Jet loved Nikos and wanted to save him from getting killed. She offered help to the police in return for the safety of Nikos, but it was too late.
While narrating the story of Nikos to an author, Jet expressed that it was difficult to determine who actually killed Nikos at the nightclub. It could have been Pruszkow and their regret at being unable to take over Tricity that led to the murder of Nikos, or it could have been the Lodz Octopus and their anger towards Nikos because he taught them to behave themselves, or it could simply have been one of Nikos’s bodyguards, or it could simply be one of his old enemies who decided to seek revenge.
Nikos’s death did not just leave Jet depressed but also the German police officer who over the years had grown gradually obsessed with the gangster. As Jet narrated Nikos’s story to the author, the author asked about the hidden money left by Nikos to be used in times of emergency, but Jet did not have an answer to that. After returning to her apartment, the same apartment that Nikos had left her with, Jet searched her room and broke a wall behind a painting to find the hidden cash left by Nikos. Nikos trusted Jet with all his money and left her all that he had in the end. How I Fell In Love With A Gangster ends with Jet and the police officer visiting the gravestone of Nikos and offering flowers. They used to frequent there and would offer flowers to the remains of the gangster.
Even though the film tried to experiment by breaking the fourth wall often with the characters talking directly to the camera, it did not manage to create a thrilling crime tale worth watching.
How I Fell In Love With A Gangster is a 2022 Polish Crime Drama film directed by Maciej Kawulski. It is streaming on Netflix.