Polish director Maciej Kawulski of ‘Underdog’ fame envisions an epic life in Polish original tragicomic crime drama biopic ‘How I Fell in Love with a Gangster’ (‘Jak pokochalam gangstera’). The rags-to-riches story follows Nikodem “Nikos” Skotarczak, the King of East Coast, and a tiger among wolves. As Nikos’ empire grows, more and more characters come under his wing. Things spiral out of control with unabashed hedonism, drugs, and women.
Nikos alienates more and more from his surroundings and prepares the stage for his death. But in the crux, the larger-than-life story is a recollection of Nikos’ multiple escapes through the window while the window keeps getting smaller. There remain potentially endless questions as we revisit Nikos’ life through a third person’s perspective. Let us untangle the ending, then. SPOILERS AHEAD.
How I Fell In Love with a Gangster Plot Synopsis
A journalist questions a mysterious woman about Nikodem “Nikos” Skotarczak, a larger-than-life Polish Gangster. At a bar previously owned by Nikos, the woman begins the story of Nikos’ life. On June 29, 1954, Nikos was born in the port community of Tricity, Poland. He had a strict father, a hardworking mother, and had trouble at school. In the past, we see Nikos, the middle sibling, get into crime to buy his siblings ice-cream sandwiches.
During the Soviet era, petty gangsters, known as “city boys,” ran the city’s crime scene. Nikos goes to meet Inkblot, the gang leader, who becomes his football coach. After a time leap, the store reopens in 1973 in Gdansk. During the daytime, Nikos is a rugby player, and by night, he works as a bouncer. Nikos eyes Inkblot’s ex-girlfriend, Milena. Komo introduces him to Magi, a Pruszkow criminal. Slowly but swiftly, Nikos gets a firm grip on the European market and even looks like a westerner. Nikos regroups with Milena in the subway, and they hit it off once again. Nikos finds her a place to live and christens her “Jet.”
However, along comes another girl, Halina, sister of bigger embezzler Tender Roman. Halina falls in love with Nikos at first sight, and Nikos marries for a second time. In 1979, Halina and Nikos open a small casino. With the help of Tender Roman, Nikos gets into the big league, rubbing shoulders with the local police. He also buys a football club, and later, a stadium. His family keeps getting bigger. However, times are changing, and when Nikos diverts his attention from cars to cocaine, a landslide follows.
How I Fell In Love With A Gangster Ending: What Causes Nikos’ Death?
Nikos is the larger-than-life star of the show, although, later in the story, he starts to look like a ghost from the past. At first glance, he comes off as a gruesome gangster. But we all agree that he is lonely and immature without discounting his crimes. A strict upbringing taught Nikos the virtue of non-violence. Since childhood, Nikos has been an escapist and not a fighter, a trait he would retain in his gangster years.
Tender Roman introduces Nikos to Marek Stapler. After making a joke about his “stapled butt,” Nikos realizes that Marek is a captain of the Polish militia. The corrupt cop drinks vodka with the prosecutors, and his wife runs the Department of Transportation. With Stapler’s help, Nikos updates his theft game. Nikos devises a three-stage plot with Komo to steal the cars from Germany, and by Germany, they mean the West.
The first part of the story takes place when the Iron Curtain is still in place, but Nikos finds a way to smuggle cars from the other side. He takes the tools from across the border by hiding them under the car seats while pretending to trade oranges. Then, they steal cars late at night and take them over to the other side of the border. With some help from his big-league friends (especially Stapler), Nikos legalizes the cars and sells them second-hand at a lower price.
However, he becomes too greedy and attempts to have it all. Nikos expands his business to Budapest. He also develops a penchant for watches. When the guard does not let him meet Stapler during the 1981-1982 seasons, he buys the whole club by the following season. But the police catch up with Nikos. Nikos can run from the police for only so long.
On the brink of the 90s, Nikos gets banged up in the high-security prison in Tegel for fifteen years. However, Nikos thinks up a great plan during his sentence. He puts on some weight, grows a beard, and starts reading. Partly inspired by ‘Zorba the Great’ and somewhat encouraged by Komo, Nikos devises a daring escapade. He stages suicide to get transferred to the psych ward.
Meanwhile, Nikos’ mostly silent brother puts on weight and grows a beard to resemble Nikos’ looks. Komo swaps Nikos with his brother during a prison visit, and the prison break becomes a media sensation. However, shortly after his escape, Nikos’ mother and brother die in a car accident, which adds to the burden on Nikos’ conscience. He gets into the cocaine business and later into alcohol while his associates turn against him one by one. The cocaine harms Nikos’ thinking, while his toxic girlfriend Nikita does not help much.
Nikos goes back to prison for another couple of years, and he comes back to find Silvio running the operation. Drug-addled Italian Silvio proves to be a threat, but Nikos eliminates him. However, that does not save Nikos. The German police guy also tries to talk some sense into Nikos, and he suggests Nikos turn himself in while the heat lowers. Nikos’ hubris makes him reject the proposition. In the end, in a slow-burning sequence at the Las Vegas Go-Go Club, Nikos prepares for his death. He thinks of escaping but changes his mind at the final minute. His pride causes his death in the end, while the cocaine addiction may have a role to play in his depression.
Who Killed Nikos?
Although Nikos begins his business with a lively spirit, he gradually stirs up a storm. Pruszkow gangster Pershing breathes on Nikos’ neck from a previous bitter patch while Waco takes up the business in Budapest. He also makes enemies with his former sidekick Silvio while doing business with Forrester under Silvio’s nose. In the end, as the narrator recollects, the killer’s identity remains a mystery. Maybe Pershing and his Pruszkow gang killed Nikos since Nikos still had some hold over Tricity. Moreover, he did not comply with Pershing’s plan.
Maybe Nikos was killed by another gang, the Lodz Octopus, since he showed them how to behave on his home turf. Perhaps it was his bodyguards, whose ambitions Nikos could not fulfill. Maybe the Tender Roman got him killed to get vengeance for his sister. Perhaps Silvio’s buddy Forrester felt slighted when Nikos changed sides. Going by the visuals, it seems that the Lodz Octopus teams up with the Pruszkow gang to eliminate Nikos.
What Happens To Nikos’ Family? Who Is The Narrator?
Although Nikos considers everyone his family, most of them (barring Komo and some other loyal) turn their backs on him in the end. In the Marylka Club, Gdansk, Nikos meets his first wife, who dies after giving birth to Piotrus. While he keeps Milena as a mistress (and she is the one who stays by his side till the end), Nikos remarries Halina for her brother’s connections. Halina divorces Nikos when she comes to know about Milena, but as Nikos finds Halina’s next boyfriend a decent job, they stay in the loop. Nikos also marries a woman in Germany to obtain citizenship, let alone his numerous stints with working girls.
In the meantime, Nikos’ sister died in 1986. His mother and brother die in the spring of 1992 in a car accident. Nikos also embarks upon a twisted relationship with Nikita, a concubine with an insatiable appetite for cocaine. In the end, Natalka, daughter of Teresa, grows to be a ballet dancer. Piotrus, Nikos’ son, also grows up under the wing of Halina. But they do not visit Nikos’ grave ritualistically on his death anniversary. Therefore, it would be safe to say that Nikos’ sprawling family notwithstanding, Nikos finds true love in Milena. And possibly, this is why Nikos leaves his “fabled fortune” for Milena, who is also the narrator of the story.