Bartkowiak (Daniel Markowicz, 2021, Poland)

Bartkowiak is a by-the-numbers fight drama from director Daniel Markowicz, whose only prior credit is a racing film called Diablo. Think Roadhouse but set in the Polish Tatra mountains. The film stars Jozef Pawlowski, who is perhaps best known to audiences both outside and inside Poland for his role in Jan Komasa's intense retelling of t

he Warsaw Uprising - Warsaw '44. Despite its poster and advertising, the film is decidedly not an MMA film. There is only a single match ring at the beginning of the movie - the rest of the fighting in the film takes place outside the ring.

The main action of the film concerns Pawlowski as Tomasz Bartkowiak, a disgraced MMA fighter whose brother is killed in a car crash. Tomasz takes over the club his brother owned in the Tatra Mountains, and soon it is revealed that his brother was not in fact killed in an accident, but murdered intentionally. A shadowy crime syndicate led by Bartlomiej Topa's character is buying up all the property in the community and using violence and deadly force where necessary. Tomasz has to fight back with the help of his lawyer ex-flame and her father, his former trainer. 

Bartkowiak feels very much like a film produced for the Netflix algorithm. It is weak in nearly every aspect, from subpar performances and cringeworthy dialogue, to fight sequences that are less than well-executed. That being said, the film can be enjoyed as a certain guilty pleasure, particularly in its stupider moments. It is reasonably entertaining if one views it as a homage to the 90s action films that its director no-doubt grew up on. And the film is certainly a novelty as maybe the only Polish martial arts film? For that alone, it is worth some praise, but this is not a film to go out of your way for.



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