Small World review – full-throttle trafficking tale goes off the rails

Polish director Patryk Vega’s usually slick technique fails him utterly here in this lurid story about a cop investigating a girl’s kidnapping by the Russian mafia

Patryk Vega is the Polish writer-director whose hardboiled thrillers have found commercial favour both at home and with diaspora audiences: 2018’s The Plagues of Breslau was the kind of full-throttle, unapologetically 18-rated entertainment western producers have largely backed away from. Regrettably, his latest is both globetrotting and dashed-off, and so remorseless that it becomes actively punishing. Violence is hardwired into Vega’s film-making: his unhinged protagonists can’t walk into a room without it seeming like a declaration of war. You gulp, then, when an ominous (and suspiciously unattributed) epigram – “What sort of species are we, if we cannot protect our children?” – makes clear this director has turned his brawn to addressing trafficking. What follows has two modes: lurid and sentimental. Either way, it’s a big wince.

Our hero Robert Goc (Piotr Adamczyk) is a cop of a familiarly grizzled stripe, first introduced as he chaperones a desperate mother to the border after the latter’s daughter is snatched by the Russian mob. The case gets forcibly reopened several years later after a gas explosion in the Russian suburbs exposes a paedophilic treasure trove in the bathroom of weak-willed foster parent Oleg (Andris Keiss). Given that Oleg’s brother is played by an especially phlegmy Aleksey Serebryakov (from Leviathan and the recent Nobody), we sense things can only get grimmer. Sure enough: half an hour in, a pregnant 11-year-old is throwing herself in front of a train at Rotherham station. Worse ensues in Bangkok, where Goc starts to wonder whether he himself might have certain … tendencies.

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