It’s certainly a treat when the odd film comes out with fraud as it’s main narrative thrust. The events change, of course, but the central theme of fraud within the film offers us at Canadian Fraud News to generate content usually in the form of a review.
Which is exactly what we’ve done with two Netflix films that coincidentally, both have the polka genre of music at the heart of their fraud narrative. The first is the feature film The Polka King starring the ever-exuberant Jack Black, based on the true story of Jan Lewan, the charming self-appointed king of polka and his Ponzi scheme that led to his ultimate downfall. The other film is a documentary that delves into a more historical account of what happened, including interviews with the man himself.
As an actor, the role of gregarious singer seems to be tailor-made for Black, who’s proven himself on the mic before in such classics (And his peak) School of Rock. He turns in a similar performance here, bouncing between a swarthy con artist and loving performer at the drop of a well…mic.
It was interesting watching the juxtaposition between a more focused iteration of what happened versus something created for an entertaining narrative in mind, which is what often happens when Hollywood decides to tackle a fraud centric topic (think Wolf of Wall Street or Boiler Room). And while I enjoyed the entertainment value of The Polka King, it does feel strange when the selfish actions of a few ultimately affect many people negatively but is characterized from with a sympathetic slant to the fraudster. The other issue that I had with The Polka King was the strange pacing issues. The film jumps around quite a bit and while the performances are entertaining the film itself is feels strangely cobbled together.
What was great about The Man who Would be Polka King, directed by John Mikulak and Joshua Brown, was the simple way in which information was presented. There was no sensationalizing anything because the events themselves were crazy enough. What I loved about the documentary was the examination of his mindset that led him to generate such a notorious scheme because it shaded in with grey, what could arguably be a very black and white situation. But of course, any time that I get to watch Jason Schwartzman and Jack Black on screen together, there’s usually a good time to be had.
And while the specific circumstances of The Polka King are crazy, the actual fraud itself is actually quite routine and commonplace in terms of reporting fraud news. It’s this clash of simple structure and outlandish visuals that coalesce into one great film. Then watching the documentary provided extra insight into a man a giant community loved for years. Both films are now available to binge on Netflix and when it comes down to it, both of these films make for a great Friday night viewing with a big bowl of popcorn and a “holy shit that actually happened,” mentality.
Read our last CFN original: Yes Meltdown and Spectre are real, but don’t be worried.
Devin Jones is the head writer and social media producer at Canadian Fraud News. Devin was raised in Toronto and is a graduate of the Ryerson University journalism program. As a former Digital Media editor at the Ryerson Review of Journalism, you can find Devin camera and coffee in hand, at his home photo studio.