The Law and the Fist (Jerzy Hoffman/Edward Skorzewski, 1964, Poland)

The Law and the Fist is the second feature from legendary Polish director Jerzy Hoffman. In this instance, he is joined by co-director Edward Skorzewski. Fist takes place in 1945, immediately in the aftermath of WWII. Andrzej Kenig (Gustaw Holoubek), a concentration camp survivor, arrives at a government plenipotentiary in search of a job. He is given the task of joining a group of men, led by Dr. Mielecki (Jerzy Przybylski) to secure the spa town of Graustadt / Siwowo. Upon arriving in the town, the group only discovers a group of four women and the German maitre d' of a local hotel. Soon it becomes clear that the men accompanying Andrzej are not who they say they are. They are a group of bandits who are looting local property. Andrzej has to choose to stand up to the men or go along with their actions.

The Law and the Fist is a tight and well-composed first feature, clocking in at a neat 90 minutes. The film - with its story of one man pitted against a group in an abandoned town - successfully transplants the American western formula into a Polish setting. Hoffman, showing his early flair for commercial cinema (he would go on to direct some of the biggest-budget Polish films of all time), shows a knack for entertainment value here. While the film is portraying a socialist message, this doesn't get in the way of the overall relatability of the plot. Gustav Holoubek, who would later have a political career in Poland, gives a great performance, capturing the moral ambivalence of the situation and the struggle to do the right thing. Likewise, Jerzy Przybylski - later known for his work in Wajda's The Promised Land  - is excellent as Holoubek's adversary. The Law and the Fist is well worth a watch for fans of Polish cinema and the western genre.


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