How I Became a Gangster review – delightfully violent yet as formulaic as it gets

January 4, 2023 (Last updated: January 7, 2023)
Lori C. 0
Film Reviews, Netflix, Streaming Service


While the film is full of tired tropes, and misogyny, and adds little value to the genre as a whole, it’s still a rather entertaining piece.


We review the Netflix film How I Became a Gangster, which does not contain spoilers.

The 2019 Polish crime-drama How I Became a Gangster (original title: Jak zostalem gangsteremHistoria prawdziwa) landed on Netflix, and it chronicles the adventures of an unnamed narrator as he embarks on a life of crime. Directed by Maciej Kawulski, the movie features Marcin Kowalczyk as the lead and supporting cast members including Tomasz Wlosok, Jan Frycz, Natalia Szroeder, and Adam Bobik

How I Became a Gangster review and plot summary

Set in Warsaw, the film starts with the unnamed narrator describing his early life in 70s Poland. Despite being born into a loving family, the protagonist spent his childhood getting into violent fights, stealing his father’s taxi at night, and driving by a hotel patronized by local gangsters and sex workers. By the time he was a teen, the young entrepreneur was pimping out local girls to Saudi tourists. When clients would get violent with the ladies, the narrator would let off some steam by beating the life out of them. As the years go by, the protagonist’s rank in Warsaw’s criminal underground grew until he landed in prison for the first time. Not for committing robberies, but for randomly beating up three football fans. Upon his release, the lead starts a criminal enterprise with a young man he took under his wing, Walden, and several others. He also falls in love and marries a classy young woman who’s blissfully unaware or simply doesn’t care about his business. 

How I Became a Gangster is as formulaic as you’d expect from a movie of its kind. We have our protagonist, a gangster with honor who refuses to harm women or children. He has a gang of close friends, including Walden, who later on becomes unhinged and painfully addicted to the substances they peddle. Of course, the women in this film are little more than ornaments. Numerous actresses portray the obligatory sex workers surrounding gangsters and one portrays the narrator’s wife, Magda, whose only role is to smile, be pretty and not ask questions. The movie even tries to convince the viewer that Magda is so naive she thinks her husband lives in a mansion and buys her expensive jewelry with the wages he earns by driving a taxi. Even when she seems to have figured out what type of man she married, she happily continues to feign ignorance.

Another issue with this film is how insipid every other character apart from the narrator appears to be. Anyone who isn’t the unnamed protagonist is portrayed as a complete and utter idiot, while the main hero is always the only sober one, the only smart one, and the most handsome. Sure it makes for a couple of comical scenes, but the tired trope gets less and less amusing as the movie progresses. 

The narrative may be lacking and the characters may be walking cliches, but the action sequences partly make up for it. If you’re looking for gratuitous violence, and a standard story about bad men doing awful things, you’re likely to enjoy this offering. 

Is How I Became a Gangster on Netflix good?

While How I Became a Gangster is full of tired tropes and misogyny and adds little value to the genre as a whole, it’s still a rather entertaining piece. It’s delightfully violent and an ideal watch if you want to switch your brain off for a good two hours and two minutes. 

What did you think of the Netflix film How I Became a Gangster? Comment below.

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