Helmed by Mateusz Rakowicz, Netflix’s Polish-language original crime thriller movie ‘The Getaway King’ probes into the life of one of Poland’s most celebrated criminals. Zdzisław Najmrodzki is something of an Arsene Lupin on his home turf in Poland. In the turbulent 70s and 80s — an era of transition — Najmrodzki makes steady headlines in the media. He rises to fame thanks to his daring escapades and charismatic persona.
The movie presents a complex and grounded look at the life of the famed embezzler, highlighting his familial role and non-violent stance. The recipe holds great merit in enticing genre fans with flashy neons and slow-motion scenes. After watching the endeavor in its entirety, you must wonder what became of the real-life thief. Can you still head to Poland and meet the legend? Let us find out! SPOILERS AHEAD.
Who is Zdzislaw Najmrodzki?
Zdzisław Najmrodzki was born in Poland in August 1954 to Sabina and Władysław Najmrodzki; he had 3 siblings. Reports mention that he also had a fairly difficult childhood. Not only did he almost drown — the trauma of which resulted in him getting a lisp — he was also allegedly bullied due to his speech problem. Eventually, he graduated from an auto mechanics vocational school after his mother pulled him out of school. He went to the military for 2 years when he was 19, and by 1977, he had gotten married as well.
His first prison sentence — that of a year and a half — transpired because the then-20-year-old Zdzislaw Najmrodzki hit a cop. But when he was being transported to Warsaw, he managed to escape. At some point in his life, he started robbing Pewex stores; these thefts went on to gain national infamy in the country’s media. In 1980, he was arrested but managed to evade officials all over again with the help of his comrades. He was able to smuggle out the blueprint of the building he was in and his teammates sawed the bars to help him escape. In fact, he ended up doing this 29 times in the course of his criminal career!
Later, he established a gang of car thieves, which then went on to steal over 100 FSO Polonez cars. Najmrodzki would target high-end clients in this trade. A Civilian’s Militia special group — under the code name Polonez — was thus formed to help curb these thefts. Finally, after many a cat-and-mouse chase, Najmrodzki was arrested on March 3, 1983. During this time, he was imprisoned at the Mokotów Prison, located on Rakowiecka Street, Warsaw.
Two years later, however, at the militia’s headquarters, Najmrodzki encountered an officer and stole the keys for the handcuff as well as the latter’s ID card. However, Najmrodzki’s he was caught again within the year, and he was sentenced to 15 years in Gliwice. But due to a tunnel dug by his associates, on September 3, 1989, he managed to escape from the facility again.
Is Zdzislaw Najmrodzki Dead or Alive?
The movie packs a comprehensive portrayal of Zdzislaw Najmrodzki’s eventful life. It also inserts media footage in the cinematic mode to give the viewers all-encompassing documentation of the usurper’s life and times. We see real-life footage of Najmrodzki signing off from the courthouse and getting away in his car. He bids a confident farewell to the judge and the jury shortly before. However, the hasty ending does not illustrate the twilight of his life in closer detail.
At the end of the film, Najmrodzki gets released from prison in post-communist era Poland. Meanwhile, the dynamic of his car theft gang has changed, and in the changing landscape, Antos has joined another criminal group. Barski, now retired, takes Najmrodzki under his wing on Mira’s insistence. Antos ends up at Mira’s shop, harassing her and Tereska. Antos also comes after Najmrodzki, but Barski and Najmrodzki escape from Antos. After a hair-raising car chase, a vehicle goes up in flame.
In the movie, after discovering a severed hand and a subsequent DNA match, the police conclude Najmrodzki to be dead. The screenwriters opted for cheap thrills in the finale, bringing back the hero moments after his funeral for a happy ending. However, the reality was quite different, we would know. In fact, he was more reckless, and recidivist than the movie suggests. After his prison break from the tunnel he dug underneath the prison yard, Najmrodzki crashed a stolen Polski Fiat 132p in Kraków, while drunk driving, on November 19, 1989.
On December 3, 1990, under drastically changed circumstances (the Berlin Wall had fallen), Najmrodzki was sentenced to a total of 27 years in prison for his assorted crimes and evasions. While in a high-security prison in Strzelce Opolskie, Najmrodzki wrote a book of poetry and aphorisms named ‘Oblicza prawdy.’ However, as the movie suggests, he also wrote a letter to Lech Wałęsa, the president of Poland, and his plea was heard. On November 15, 1994, Lech Wałęsa pardoned Najmrodzki’s crimes. Following a declaration of Najmrodzki being a resocialized person, he was out of prison.
The “Getaway King” expressed his interest in pursuing business or farming during his release from prison. However, it would not take long for him to return to crimes. On August 31, 1995, Najmrodzki died in a car crash near Mlawa, and the car was not even his own. The vehicle had a fake registration plate, and the thief himself was carrying fake identification proof. While opting for a traditional euphoric ending, the movie seemingly discounts the tragic finale of Najmrodzki’s life.