Alpha Male Review

Struggling to quit smoking, Piotrek’s fiancée signs him up for a course at an institute focused on providing help for men. However, after a room mix-up, he finds himself in a classroom with the institute’s ‘Leader’ who is teaching a course on ‘relationships’. Drawn in by the magnetic Leader and the selection of good food, Piotrek slowly gets dragged into a cult ritual where hatred of women becomes the key to realizing your inner alpha male. Directed by Igor & Katarzyna Priwieziencew, the film is the duo’s feature-length debut adapting a short film they had previously worked on.

Alpha Male is a brilliantly constructed comedy that wastes no time showcasing a deep understanding of brainwashing as well as its ability to generate comedy from such a deviously manipulative system. In the opening credits we see Piotrek trying to navigate the maze that is the men’s institute, a purposely constructed labyrinth meant to disorient and confuse. The absurdist tone already starts to show as we see a group of men having to enter through a tiny door to get to their class, while the hallways are crowded with people playing the horn and an intercom system announcing a bomb threat that makes it so any large bags are no longer allowed on-premise (a running gag through the film). Undeniably silly, the intro to the institute conveys the point of disorienting followers to make them more dependent on the system, a fact that only becomes more apparent as the film progresses.

Once we meet the charismatic Leader the audience already understands that he has his hooks deep into Piotrek and his generally challenging persona will be broken with time. How his spirit is broken comes through in impassioned monologues about how women are awful, and playing the attendees of the courses against them through emasculation and manipulation. This methodology is shockingly realistic down to the small nuances, but to keep it within the realm of dark comedy there are a lot of absurdist touches that dominate the sessions; a dance-off and performing the Haka, yelling alpha with their hands above their head and sticking out their tongue, and highlighting their crotch as they scream “male”. Throughout the film there are plenty of examples where disturbing manipulation is offset by a wonderful moment of absurdity that lets the viewer breathe.

Assisting the film’s flow is a sense of escalation where it is hard to gauge what is the end goal of the leader and his manipulation of Piotrek. The conclusion will likely be shocking as violence erupts in an utterly unexpected way, giving the film a deeply perturbing conclusion with a prologue that further pushes the commentary of hyper-masculinity as a cultural movement. Regardless of the viewers’ opinion on terms like ‘toxic masculinity’, the film proves to embody the worst of male-oriented self-help groups with the cringe of ‘dating pro’ youtube channels. Though it is important to note that Piotrek does act as a sort of moral guide–a likable character slowly corrupted through extremist brainwashing–it condemns shitty men, not men as a whole.

Comedies are heavily reliant on the cast, and the performances from each of the men enrolled in the self-help group is all perfectly played, with each getting a moment to bust their comedic chops. Even the silent and creepy Daniel (Piotr Trojan) gets to tell a story that flashes to visions of him being stalked by a ghoul of a wife to take out the trash after a hard day’s work. However, Miroslaw Haniszewski steals the show as the cock-sure Leader and really embodies a manipulative a**hole who understands when to build up and when to humiliate to keep his audience captivated and subservient. Miroslaw Haniszewski, as Piotrek, is the polar opposite in persona of the Leader, and while his role is probably the least remarkable character of the batch, watching his relationship grow with the ringleader is a true joy to watch.

The score is an aptly eccentric mix of jazz and electronic to catch the zaniness of the situation. The visuals are sharp and perfectly aimed at elevating the absurdist’s moments, notably the Leader having a clicker that can turn the conference room into a light show to celebrate or intimidate his captive audience. Overall, the film is perfectly constructed and pushed towards elevating humor in every way.

Alpha Male is an unforgettable comedic gem, one that viewers will find themselves visiting over and over again. Its playful jabs at cultural issues are executed in a way to not isolate anyone but those it mocks and the comedy is unrelenting and intelligent. Don’t miss a chance to check this one out.

We Watched Alpha Male as Part of the 2022 Fantaspoa Film Festival

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