Monday, June 13, 2016

Gangster Ka [2015]

MPAA (R)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing listing* listing* listing

Červený (V. Staňková) review* (M. Spáčilová) review* (V. Míšková) review*

Gangster Ka [2015] [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*[CEu] (directed and screenplay cowritten by Jan Pachl [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*[CEu] along with Czech writer/investigative reporter Jaroslav Kmenta [cs.wikip] []*[GR] [WCat] [Amzn-USA] [IMDb] based on Kmenta's books []*[]*[]*[Eng-Amzn-1] about now South Africa residing fugitive Czech swindler-turned-gangster Radovan Krejčíř [en.wikip] [cs.wikip]*) is a contemporary Czech gangster film (the first of a planned two part project) that played recently as part of the 2016 Czech That Film Tour organized annually by the Czech Ministry of Culture and the Czech Diplomatic Mission to the United States. As part of said film tour, the film played recently here in Chicago at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

The story of the fictionalized Radim Kraviec aka Káčko or simply as in the film's title Ká (played by Hynek Čermák [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*) makes for an interesting cautionary tale and arguably "forwards" / "makes its contribution" to the (gangster) genre.  This is because Ká didn't begin as completely evil.  To be sure, he _did_ begin as a crook, getting his hands (in a frustratingly unexplained manner...) on a fairly _huge_ stack of (counterfeit?) (Czech) currency.

But that's what Ká's BFF / principal goon (gauner in Czech) named Dardan (played by Predrag Bjelac [IMDb] [CSFD]* [FDB]*) tells us that (coal mining town) Ostrava-born Ká sincerely believed was _all_ that he really needed to "make it" in life -- get his hands on a really big stash of (seed) money.

With said stash of money, Ká appeared to want to live life according to what is (quite realistically if also quite depressingly) the central credo of  much of contemporary Czech life -- the belief that "If only one had the money, then one could truly buy _anything_" and, more to the point, "That's the way it should be."  "Don't cry, just learn to play the game..."  Sigh ...

And so with his _big_ stash of ill-gotten cash, Ká went to work.  He blew-out of provincial Ostrava, bought himself a thoroughly chic/modern mansion somewhere on the outskirts of Prague complete with its own shark-tank (to amuse and perhaps vaguely threaten guests ...) and a garage full of the most expensive cars that one could ever imagine, and impressing / marrying then a sweet / drop-dead gorgeous Czech playboy model named Sandra (played wonderfully by Vlastina Svátková [IMDb] [CSFD]* [FDB]*) who _also_ seemed to think that with Ká she now had it made.

Then having _created_ this very impressive "image" of/for himself, he used a good portion of the rest of his money to both "buy access" to other large scale swindles (notably with the State Gas/Petroleum Company) and to pay-off public officials to keep them at bay.   What could go wrong?

Indeed, his approach seemed so characteristically _Czech_ (again, I'm of Czech descent):  Yes, the "violence option" was _always_ there but in a strange "Just (Mob) War Theory" approach ;-) Ká (and perhaps other Czech mobsters) saw it as truly "a last resort."  First, you just try to buy people off.  Then, if that doesn't work, you bring out the lawyers, who'll also often enough come up with a larger, more formal, financial arrangement (or "financial arrangement") to "settle things" to "everyone's satisfaction."  Only when that doesn't work, you bring out the goons.  Why needlessly "pound heads" (or "pull out teeth...") if "a little grease" could "align" everybody in the proper direction and make everybody rich / happy?

Yes, but ... (1) No one can really escape one's past (there were folks, of course, who "knew Ká's number" from "Ostrava days"), (2) ill-gotten money always tends to get spent rather fast (that chic mansion w. shark tank / fast cars "didn't come cheap" plus the cost of other "habits" starts "to add up," (3) finally, "The Law" can be "kept at bay" for a while, but it'll "always be hovering."

So Ká's "shark tank" becomes a metaphor for his whole story:  Even sharks _don't_ spend most of their time "attacking."  Instead, they actually spend most of their time _swimming_, _circling_, _calculating_ until ...

Fascinating film ;-) ... and _hopefully_ a cautionary tale reminding us that no matter how smart we may think we are, we're almost certainly _not_ smart enough to out-smart Evil ...

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