Directed by Jonas Akerlund.
Starring Mads Mikkelsen, Vanessa Hudgens, Katheryn Winnick, Richard Dreyfuss and Matt Lucas.
A talented hitman is nearing retirement and will receive an eight-million dollar pension on his fiftieth birthday. His employers send out a team of younger assassins to take him out before his big payday.
Based on the Dark Horse Comics of the same name, Polar follows Duncan Vizla (Mads Mikkelsen), an extremely talented hitman who is haunted by the actions of his career. As he finishes one final job, he flees to a remote cabin in Montana, waiting for his birthday to retire from the life. And with a blood splattered opening sequence, audiences immediately know what they’re in for. Featuring a brief Johnny Knoxville cameo as a similarly retired killer partying away with copious amounts of drink and drugs. He’s fooled by a seductive assassin who lulls him into a false sense of security with her sexuality before he’s riddled with bullets by her team. It’s the perfect opening for the film, preparing the audience for a hyper-violent ride of sex, drugs and assassinations.
While Polar excels in handing out over the top violence at nearly every turn, it lacks a well written script. The opening few scenes of dialogue are pure exposition and set up, with all the minor characters introduced via their character traits. The sexy one, the maniac, the getaway driver and so on. None of the supporting cast have any genuine depth to them whatsoever. Plus, for the audiences casually checking their phones every so often, the plot is (annoyingly) explained several times before the real action begins to kick in. During one of these explanations, we meet Matt Lucas’ terribly irritating villain, Mr. Blut. His over the top nature and stylistic flare feels as if he’s stepped off the comic’s page – but he’s tiring to watch. Some of his lines are ham fisted and silly while having no conviction at all. Add this to the fact that everything he says sounds like it was written by a 13 year old who just learned a flurry of swear words, and it gets old quickly. But it’s obvious Lucas is having fun playing a villain.
Once Duncan settles down in Montana, his part of the story takes a breath and begins to foster a friendship with Vanessa Hudgens’ Camille. They have an interesting dynamic, and given a little more development, their arc would ultimately pack more of a punch later down the line. Unfortunately, the film jumps back and forth between the colourful younger assassins searching for Duncan and the scenes in Montana feel completely disjointed. The way it chops back and forth feels more like a TV show, rather than a cinematic experience. Although there is a brilliant irony in Duncan renting a movie from a vending machine while the audience watches it online. The best scene in the film is undoubtedly the moment where Duncan teaches a bunch of kids how to kill people, while remembering a whole host of assassinations from each country. It’s moments like this that prove Polar can be truly terrible while genuinely entertaining at the same time.
Duncan’s character is mainly developed through the nightmares that he’s plagued with. The audience is subjected to rapid violent images filled with blood, screaming and gunshots. But some of the choices the script makes become very questionable, including one memorable moment with a dog – that another famous hit man might have a problem with. In fact, Polar is the bargain bin version of John Wick. Think about it, all the pieces are there. An ageing hitman is the best at what he does but wants to get out, only to be dragged right back in. A quirky, weird company dedicated to killing people. The gun-fu style action sequences… There’s nothing new here.
There’s so much gratuitous violence and torture that it becomes silly and extravagant. After half an hour, the violence has no impact whatsoever because it’s no longer realistic. Instead, it’s almost like a violent cartoon. Vanessa Hudgen’s performance is the most engaging out of the whole cast as she struggles with her own emotional trauma… Until she becomes the inevitable damsel in distress, of course. But Mads Mikkelsen is a quiet force of rage throughout. And it’s hard not to be impressed during the over the top fight scenes. The ‘finger guns’ moment from the trailer is extremely satisfying and fun, while leaning right into just how crazy Polar is.
The film is as good as Duncan’s first line at the beginning; “eh, it’s not too bad”. Honestly? It’s a trashy, loud thriller that knows exactly what it is and doesn’t sugar-coat it. As long as you don’t expect the standards of other gun-fu thrillers like John Wick or The Punisher, it’s fine.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★