As many genre films have taught us over the years, in the ubiquitous and uncontrollable world of political corruption, evil rises with an opportunity.
Given that such an opportunity finally shows its hideous face, a random high-ranking official, whose power might seem limitless and whose sense of morality went down the drain a long time ago, wouldn't hesitate to destroy even the most innocent people in order to gain something, whether it's a huge sum of money or just a chance for a personal vendetta. It's never easy to watch a picture that forcefully manages to imply the well-known and revolting, yet often purposefully hidden truth about corruption, its unrestrained appetite for destruction and the aftermath that almost always hurts only regular, law-abiding citizens.
Being one of the top grossing films of the year, Ryszard Bugajski's darkly atmospheric and downright depressing The Closed Circuit (Uklad zamkniety) gained much attention when it first opened in Polish cinemas in April, mostly due to fact that it's based on a series of shocking and completely preposterous events that took place in Poland in 2003.
The film caused a major uproar and outraged many high-level politicians and prominent officeholders because of a very graphic and controversial depiction of a legal system governed by people who, through a bestial process of manipulation and extortion, lay their hands on some easy money and in the end aren't even properly punished, a valuable political critique and noticeable allusion to a tremendous problem that's still present in the Third Polish Republic.
The Closed Circuit starts with a celebratory party in praise of Piotr (Robert Olech), Marek (Przemsylaw Sadowski) and Grzegorz (Jaroslaw Kopaczewski), three young, open-minded, aspiring Polish entrepreneurs and their recent wonderful achievement -- opening of an impressive high-tech factory. With a little help from their friends and family they were able to collect the needed amount in order to create a seemingly innovatory business plan.
For those inventive men with perfectly unblemished resumes, the future looks amazingly bright. They quickly gain the attention of investors from all around the globe, but more importantly, as the film's main storyline so ostensibly indicates, what the poor fellows don't realize is that behind their backs a group of corrupted, jealous bureaucrats plan on taking them down for whatever reason. As the plot, which progressively comes as a bit underdeveloped and feels too rushed in its final act, develops and offers some meddling retrospection, it's becoming clearer that the whole terrifying ordeal isn't strictly cash-related but has some connections on a more personal level.
Prosecutor Andrzej Kostrzewa (Janusz Gajos) is the devil himself, the orchestrator of the whole illicit plan, and a man so gravely determined to destroy innocent lives that he won't stop at anything. First a raid that leaves families shattered, then the men are put in jail without a proper trial, and the hell that they experience herein has a huge effect on their psyche, especially on Piotr's, who breaks and tries to kill himself numerous times.
In that tragic affair the most interesting character is Kamil (Wojciech Zoladkiewicz), an ambitious prosecutor, who driven by greed soon becomes a marionette in the hands of the very convincing Andrzej and his troupe of self-conceited cads. He's insecure and feeble, thus very easy to manipulate, and even though he has a few moments of hesitation still remains a prisoner of his own impotence.
People who are supposed to use their power to help the still-ailing country to prosper more effectively thoughtlessly decide to use their time in order to charge innocent businessmen for an economic crime they didn't really commit. A story like this one comes ever so often that's why it doesn't necessarily strike as a thrilling one but, fortunately for the overall appeal of the The Closed Circuit, the carefully written, manly, and often engrossing dialogues along with fine acting and tightly-paced action make up for two hours of decent entertainment.
Bugajski's direction veers off course at times and reveals several minor plot holes, but the general idea stays perfectly undisturbed -- corruption is a plague that spreads like a disease and thought people everywhere try to fight it, it's a fight that will probably never be won.