How I Became a Gangster review: Style and slog over substance

‘How I Became a Gangster’ follows an ambitious Polish gangster’s rise through the ranks of the Warsaw criminal underworld before he inevitably faces the pitfalls of the mafia life.


The unnamed protagonist grows up in the 70s Polish People’s Republic, having a penchant for the brawls and starry eyes for the gangster life.

He eventually catches up to the glitter and becomes an underling in the mafia, soon rising through the ranks and gaining status high enough to pull off a robbery mostly on his own.

One of the aloof gangsters slips up and ends up getting all his peers long prison sentences, but the protagonist gets lucky, only facing 18 months in total.

Following his release, he changes the routine and decides to do things his way, forming a crew of close, loyal friends, with Walden gradually becoming his best friend.

However, the coke-head Walden is too quick to give into his vices and premature sensibilities and dangerous, adrenaline-driven ideas he cooks up with little regard to the safety or the future.

Those brash tendencies ultimately catch up to him, and he ends up killing a kid, before ruining the protagonist’s smooth-sailing business even more by going after his top-dog mafia associate.

It falls on the protagonist to get rid of Walden but he can’t go through with it, and the cost of saving his best friend is a heavy one. He can’t escape the inevitable, and neither can Walden, whose conscience finally awakens and he ends his life.

As his life comes to a bloody stop, so does the protagonist’s life of crime, with him finally facing the punishment and turning a new leaf.


While there’s nothing that notable overall when it comes to the performances in ‘How I Became a Gangster’, there are a couple of standouts.

Marcin Kowalczyk puts up a solid display of his acting chops, shifting gears from frenetic to calm and composed in accordance with the ask of the scene.

Natalia Szroeder and Natalia Siwiec are great in the little amount of screen time they get, with Siwiec deserving some extra applause for the heartbreaking display of grief and pain at the hands of her abusive lover Walden.

However, the clear standout and the big coked and cranked-up performance of the film come from Tomasz Wlosok. His hyperventilating chops are absolutely believable and so is his knack for portraying moments of vulnerability and passion.


‘How I Became a Gangster’ does have an undeniable flair, and while it’s very explicitly inspired and borrowed from many gangster classics, there are moments of authenticity that come from the Polish origins of the subject matter it’s loosely inspired from.


The needle drops are too distracting when they’re so popular and overused in pop culture, and the film breaks immersion many times, thanks to the aforementioned cinema sin.

As is the case with so many gangster flicks, ‘How I Became a Gangster’ also suffers from the problematic glorification of the morbid moral bankruptcy all its characters engage in.

The portion of the film dedicated to the protagonist’s comeuppance is underwhelmingly smaller than the entirety of the runtime preceding it, wasted on nothing but glorifying the glitter and gold of the gangster life.


‘How I Became a Gangster’ is a boring mosaic of borrowed scenes and tired tropes, with nothing more than the diluted style keeping the embers alive.

How I Became a Gangster
How I Became a Gangster review: Style and slog over substance 1

Director: Maciej Kawulski

Date Created: 2023-01-04 13:30

Editor's Rating:

Also Read: How I Became a Gangster ending explained: How does Walden die?

More from The Envoy Web