Polish: Kiler (Juliusz Machulski, 1997, Poland)

Juliusz Machulski’s Kiler was a true phenomenon when it was released in Poland in 1997. At the time of its release, the film was the highest grossing native Polish film of all time. It even the attracted the attention of American producers, namely Barry Sonnenfeld, who put forward a six-figure offer for the remake rights of the film (the remake, as of 2020, has never been made). The film was so successful that it even spawned a sequel.
It’s easy to see why Kiler was so successful upon its release - the film addresses Polish themes but packages them within a high-concept, Hollywood-style plot. Machulski acknowledges that Hollywood cinema is more of an influence on his film than Polish cinema. There are a few playful jabs at Polish cinema in Kiler. In one scene, the titular Jurek Kiler watches a few films (Taxi Driver, Reservoir Dogs, etc.) in order to find inspiration for his new hitman persona. Among the films is a Polish film, which he noticeably disregards. Also in the final scene of the film, which involves Kiler getting a huge sum of money, there is an epilogue which states that the characters invested the money in Polish cinema, and that they regretted this mistake later on.
Despite its playfulness concerning the legacy of Polish cinema, Kiler is in many ways the quintessential exploration of 90s Poland. The film satirizes the police, the nouveau riche, and numerous other classes of society that ascended after the downfall of communism. Kiler himself seems to represent an aspirational figure for Polish society at the time - he is adaptable and moves along with the change, even as many characters around him simply want to take advantage of him and use him to their own ends.
If there is a fault of Kiler, it is perhaps that some of the humor will be lost on non-Polish audiences. It also runs long.


7/10

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