Inspired by real events, “The Closed Circuit” is a compelling, strongly performed political thriller about greed and corruption in contempo Gdansk, Poland, where some high-flying new entrepreneurs fall victim to the machinations of the city’s entrenched powers. One of the highest-grossing films of the year on home turf, this latest film from helmer Ryszard Bugajski (“Interrogation”) is traveling to independent venues in North America via new U.S. distributor Society Films.
The action begins in 2003, as young businessmen Piotr Maj (Robert Olech), Marek Stawski (Przemyslaw Sadowski) and Grzegorz Rybarcyzk (Jaroslaw Kopaczewski) throw a grand fete to open their new factory. They’re partners in a fast-growing, highly successful company called Navar, which produces high-tech electronics using state-of-the-art equipment from Denmark.
Lurking on the fringes of the festivities like some malevolent spider is district prosecutor Andrzej Kostrzewa (Janusz Gajos). A Communist Party stalwart from way back, Kostrzewa is a master manipulator and ruthless hunter who takes pleasure in eliminating weaker specimens. Joking that there are no honest businessmen in Poland, Kostrzewa establishes a secret alliance with city official Miroslaw Kaminski (Kazimierz Kaczor) and a high-ranking politician (Krzysztof Gordon), scheming to take over the company. They play on the ambitions of a pitbull-like younger prosecutor (Wojciech Zoladkowicz) and use him to carry out their insidious plan.
The businessmen are arrested and treated like dangerous criminals, accused of financial irregularities and money laundering. They are thrown into prison, where they face inhuman conditions, leaving Kostrzewa free to wheedle their shares from their significant others (Magdalena Kumorek, Monika Kwiatkowska and Beata Scibakowna). Meanwhile, an enterprising journalist (Krzysztof Ogloza) is assigned to chronicle Navar’s downfall, but the story he ultimately reports, documenting a closed circuit of corruption, doesn’t please his editor, much less those in the seats of power.
Co-written by producer Miroslaw Piepka and Michal S. Pruski, the screenplay shows how the ideas and entrepreneurial spirit of the new Poland threaten the older power brokers, whose thinking is deeply rooted in conspiracies and past pathologies. Although the dialogue and situations occasionally veer toward melodrama, director Bugajski keeps the overall tone closer to that of a political thriller. Fine performances rep the pic’s strong suit; although short and rather ordinary-looking, Gajos can be terrifying.
Tech credits are merely serviceable, with yellow-toned flashbacks to the 1960s looking particularly threadbare; it’s possible that the pic’s inherent criticism of the not-so-ancient regime accounts for why it received no funding from the Polish government. The producers ultimately raised a budget from a consortium of businesses.