The Polish thriller The Plagues of Breslau (or Plagi Breslau) is conventional in many ways, but its brusque, obsessive female cops linger in the mind. This serial-killer saga from director Patryk Vega may have gore mavens lining up to soak in all the guts ‘n’ plasma, but will it appeal to those of us with porcelain sensibilities?
Polish Thriller ‘Plagues of Breslau’ Review
Plagues of Breslau opens with a parcel being found in a market. It’s made up of a sewn-together hide of a high-quality bull, and compressed inside the parcel is a man. Helena Rus arrives rapidly on the scene and is joined shortly after by a more experienced officer from Warsaw (Daria Widawska).
She recognises straight away that the crime copies a pattern from local history which leads her to anticipate more over the next few days. And so begins a swift serial sequence of shocking and theatrical deaths, which keep the police on their toes and shake up the city of Breslau.
The two main characters are interesting, well-drawn and well-acted. Rau is the spiky-but-slightly-fragile sort, but what most people see is that she’s fearless. Widawska is carrying some heavy baggage and she is both energetic and clever. Both of them have depths we only start to see as the film progresses.
One positive points is Plagi Breslau‘s sense of place. There are no glamorous cruise ships of penthouses like in Kobiety Mafia; no-one is trying to leave their heritage behind. The film features authentic-looking working-class interiors and a market, as well as streets and sports venues that bring the city to life.
Plagi Breslau is gory: we are talking about gruesome, staged deaths and explicit autopsy scenes. Apart from a couple of brief exceptions, we don’t see the deaths take place, but the discovery of them: we’re talking Se7en levels of nasty, not Saw, after all.
That is, a film like Se7en with primarily female roles and less studied contemplation. Plagues is a thriller that reveals too much too early and is all the better for it, because it shows a willingness to push the story into relatively uncharted territory in the third act.
That said, this one gets ludicrous and sloppy down the stretch, and I wouldn’t buy that ending at bargain-basement prices. But I at least gave enough of a crap to keep watching and see how this rubbishy thriller resolved itself.