Polar Film Review
Netflix is in the middle of their biggest gamble. They’ve made pretty much everything up to this point. So at the very beginning of this year, along with the fresh Oscar campaign (for Roma), they’ve been busy promoting fresh new content. Polar is among that new content.
Directed by Jonas Åkerlund and written by Jayson Rothwell, Polar is actually a film adaptation of the action noir comic series of the same name. It has Mads Mikkelsen in the role of Duncan Vizla aka The Black Keiser. An elite assassin who’s just weeks shy of his retirement. The organization that has him employed also has a company policy that all of the contract killers on their payroll need to retire at the age of 50. But the agency led by the comically grotesque Mr. Blut (Matt Lucas) also have a policy of killing their employees before the retirement, in order not to pay them a very costly retirement plan. So hidden away in a tiny cabin in Montana, Dunkan has a limited amount of time to kill before he gets killed by Mr. Blut’s group of ruthless henchmen.
Polar is not for the faint of heart that’s for sure. It’s one of the most violent, brutal and bloody movies I’ve seen in a long time. Polar is not the best movie of the Netflix’s endless pool of movie picks, but you can’t say that you’ll be bored during those 2 hours of airtime. And you’ll get the intentions of the movie in the first 30 minutes or so… I haven’t read the Polar comic books, but the film version is more a John Wick meets Oldboy mash-up and it fails on both accounts. There is a heavily stylized use of color, fast editing and rapid camera movements, especially in the action scenes but they can’t be the redemption that this movie needs, since what’s left is repetitive plot, lack of originality in crafting the characters and in setting the tone.
Speaking of the characters, Mr. Blut is probably one of the worst villains that’s been ever put on film and Matt Lukas is just so wrong about this role. So, So Sooo wrong on sooo many levels. But there are 2 beacons of hope in this section, and that’s quite promising I should point out. Mads is again on point here as the lonely and solemn hit-man Duncan Vizla, and his own little cat/mouse hunt for his ex-colleagues in the very cold Montana is one of the best set pieces you’ll see in those 2 hours.
Oh Duncan… A killer with a soft side that’s been plagued with horrible nightmares, and Vanessa Hudgens is a pleasant surprise in the role of Camille- Dunkan’s neighbor in Montana that’s been plagued with a past trauma. Their repartee is quite reminiscent of Oldboy too, but most of their scenes together represent a much quieter aspect of this otherwise hectic, violent and fast passed movie. She manages to give a quite sensitive and toned down performance, and she’s surprisingly wonderful to watch, despite her character’s traumatic past.
But there is so much that’s unsaid in Polar. The source of Dunkan’s nightmares is a past kill job gone wrong, but what does it involve? What’s the story and history behind it? And could we know a bit about anyone’s character history? I know that that most of them a hard core psychopaths but don’t they deserve a backstory? There are also several tones in the narrative. There’s the action packed noir path that this movie likes to take, there’s the sentimental and sensitive undertones of the two main characters (Dunkan and Camille) and their need to connect while they deal with their pain and isolation, and there’s the senseless madness that comes from the rest of the characters.
Quite literally. I’d say that this movie doesn’t know what it’s supposed to be, but I think it’s the simple explanation. I think that this movie likes to be many many things all at once, and gets lost in its’ own identity.
The repetition of the killing scenes doesn’t quite help with that self-discovery but if you have the patience and the stomach to … well stomach them, you’ll be surprised at the risk and shock value that Netlix is taking with this Polar. If only it paid off.