Current Issue #488

Film Review:
The Plagues of Breslau

Drawn vaguely from author Marek Krajewski’s novels, this dour Polish detective thriller offers overwrought performances, gross detail and improbable twists that suggest the characters are complete fools. 

Executive produced, directed and mostly written by the prolific Patryk Vega, it’s a fairly objectionable experience that might be almost offensive, if it wasn’t so damn silly.

Detective Helena Rus is on the case when a branded corpse is found sewn into a cowhide, and Malgorzata Kozuchowska’s performance begins big and doesn’t have anywhere to go but up – and up. In fact, the way that she plays the part with a combination of rage, anguish, sullenness and exhaustion makes you wonder why she wasn’t pensioned off years ago, while her totally unprofessional sub-‘80s hairstyle makes it look like she’s about to join a Kajagoogoo tribute band.

Rus complains to colleague Jarek a.k.a. ‘Bronson’ (Tomasz Oswiecinski), continually smacks around a muck-raking TV journo, agonises extensively and is eventually assigned to work alongside ball-breaking profiler Iwona Bogacka (Daria Widawska). And it’s Bogacka who hits upon the pretty preposterous reason why the first poor dude died and why others are surely likely to keep on being killed every day at 6.00pm for a week: yes, it’s all got something (or other) to do with events from the 18th Century, back when Wroclaw was called Breslau (the town’s original name, and with a decidedly negative connotation).

And so bloodied bodies, torn-off limbs and assorted viscera start flying, and we’re also treated to lots of grisly autopsy sequences, with scalps pulled back like peeled grapes and the like. It’s all rather revolting, but the tedious need to shock makes these moments less than confronting, while a later highlight involving a severed head is rendered almost ridiculous due to the fact that, of course, it’s quite obviously made of Polish rubber.

There’s also the absurdly derivative nature of that plot to consider too, with the showy-murders-in-an-unlikely-pattern plot reminiscent of not only the serial killer classic Se7en but campy Vincent Price horror comedies from the ‘70s like the Dr. Phibes pics and Theatre Of Blood. And, furthermore, there’s even a weird glimmer of the wonderfully disreputable splatter sagas of the late not-so-great Herschell Gordon Lewis, as a body torn apart by horses and another unfortunate rolled down a street in a barrel full of spikes are seemingly ripped-off from no less than Two Thousand Maniacs!.

Nevertheless, there are those out there who have somehow enjoyed Vega’s pic and compared it, amazingly enough, to ‘Nordic noirs’, but those moody Scandi dramas don’t feature huge, head-scratching twists like the ones on show here, which come out of nowhere and leave you almost agog, fully believing that the Wroclaw police force is populated with drooling nitwits.

Reviewer Rating

The Plagues Of Breslau (MA) is now streaming on Netflix

DM Bradley

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