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Aggressive, fast-paced Warsaw-set crimer “The Christening,” from Polish helmer Marcin Wrona, gives new meaning to the phrase “to die like a dog.” Well crafted and tightly scripted, albeit with mostly unsympathetic characters, jittery camerawork and expletive-filled dialogue (plus gratuitous sex and graphically sadistic torture), the pic seems targeted at a domestic audience of younger males.

After a prologue establishes their previous relationship, discharged soldier Janek (Tomasz Schuchardt) and seemingly successful businessman Michal (Wojciech Zielinski) meet again some years later. Now married to beautiful blonde Magda (Natalia Rybicka), Michal will celebrate the christening of his infant son in a week, and invites the tightly wound Janek to be godfather. Tension builds over the next seven days as events reveal Michal’s true circumstances and force Janek to choose between loyalty to the man who once saved his life or to the ruthless gang to which they once belonged. Opening with the words “inspired by a true story,” pic is reminiscent of but never matches Krzysztof Krauze’s cool, deliberate thriller “The Debt” (2000). Male performances are intense to the point of sometimes being overwrought, with Adam Woronowicz limning a particularly memorable psychotic killer.

The Christening

Poland

  • Production: An Odeon Film Studio, No Problem - Krzysztof Krawczyk, Andrzej Wajda Master School of Film Directing, Polish Film Institute production. (International sales: M-Appeal, Berlin.) Produced by Leszek Rybarczyk, Marek Rudnicki. Executive producers, Leszek Rybarczyk, Marek Rudnicki, Magdalena Jozwiak, Tomasz Szulc. Directed by Marcin Wrona. Screenplay, Grzegorz Jankowski, Grazyna Trela, Dariusz Glazer.
  • Crew: Camera (color, DV-to-35mm), Pawel Flis; editor, Piotr Kmiecik; music, Marcin Macuk; production designer, Dorota Lacek-Gorczyca; costume designer, Katarzyna Srodka. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Vanguard), Sept. 14, 2010. (Also in Gdynia, Warsaw Film Festivals.) Running time: 86 MIN.
  • With: With: Tomasz Schuchardt, Wojciech Zielinski, Natalia Rybicka, Adam Woronowicz, Michal Koterski.
  • Music By: