Time: 118 Minutes
Mads Mikkelsen as Duncan Vizla
Vanessa Hudgens as Camille
Katheryn Winnick as Vivian
Matt Lucas as Mr. Blut
Director: Jonas Åkerlund
The world’s top assassin, Duncan Vizla (Mads Mikkelsen), aka The Black Kaiser, is settling into retirement when his former employer marks him as a liability to the firm. Against his will, he finds himself back in the game going head-to-head with an army of younger, faster, ruthless killers who will stop at nothing to have him silenced.
Polar was a movie that I heard about and was somewhat looking forward to watch. The idea of seeing Mads Mikkelsen as a John Wick like hitman was something that was right up my alley. Outside of that, I really wasn’t expecting much from the movie, I just wanted to have a fun time watching Mads Mikkelsen kill a bunch of people. After hearing that the movie wasn’t very good, I was hoping for it to be average or even guilty pleasure material, but unfortunately it’s not even close to either of those. It’s really been a long time since I’ve hated watching a movie, and I didn’t think it would be Polar of all movies.
Polar is actually based on a webcomic series, one that I’m not familiar with. It’s been a while where I’ve watched a movie where it was incredibly difficult to find a place to start in describing how literally everything about it was awful. The plot itself is pretty straightforward, Mads Mikkelsen is an assassin, the employer has him marked to be killed, Mads kills everyone. Yet Polar somehow manages to be so drawn out, with not much happening over the course of the movie and the plot handled so poorly. The film definitely didn’t start off well, with a overly stylised scene where some assassins kill off Johnny Knoxville. If you wanted to really get a good idea at how bad the movie is, go onto Netflix and watch that first scene. Much of the plot and dialogue was very amateur, it constantly felt like it was written by people who legitimately felt that what they wrote was very cool and edgy, it’s painful. They try to make the dialogue seem smart, funny and witty, and it comes across as being cringe. This film is 2 hours long, and while that doesn’t sound too long, it takes a really long time for this movie to pick up. Mads does kill some people in the first 30 minutes, however in terms of the main plot, it takes over an hour for him to get involved with the actual plot with him being directly up against hitmen being sent after him. After that one scene of violence, for a while he’s just spending time with Vanessa Hudgens’s character. Honestly had her plotline been the main focus of the movie it would’ve been better, instead it’s around for the first half and then just disappears until the end. In that time there’s also a subplot of the younger hitmen tracking down Mads and it was insufferable and repetitive, they violently beat up some people for information and then kill them, and for some reason they keep showing these scenes because for some reason they thought that these moments are hilarious or something. It’s impossible to care about the plot and characters. Even with all the time spent with Mads Mikkelsen doing nothing for the majority for the first hour, the only reason you’re somewhat along on the ride with him is because of the actor, not the actual character. The character is very flat honestly, with not a lot to him. It even tries to incorporate a twist at the end and you just don’t care, you just want it to end.
Mads Mikkelsen was the main reason I was even somewhat curious about this movie. Even if the movie he’s in isn’t good and he isn’t given much to work with, he always manages to make himself comes across as somewhat credible in every movie that he’s in. Polar is no exception. With that said, the character really has really nothing going for him outside of just being really being good at killing people. 10 minutes into this movie and Mads Mikkelsen accidentally kills a dog, definitely a weird decision. I have no idea how Mikkelsen agreed to this movie with this script in the first place. With the supporting cast on the other hand, they were a little hit or miss. Vanessa Hudgens and Katheryn Winnick were actually alright in their roles, they clearly weren’t given much to work with but they clearly did the best that they could, credit to them. However, I’m not kidding when I saw that literally every other character is incredibly obnoxious and terrible. Matt Lucas was so an over the top cartoon of a villain, not threatening in the slightest and it was just insufferable when it cut to scenes with him, especially when we didn’t really need to see him. As previously mentioned, the younger hitman characters were really annoying to watch, they really just come across as a bunch of jackasses and are really annoying.
The direction of Polar just reeks of trying way too hard. It’s pretty clear that the movie is based on a comic because it tries so hard to be stylish, which really just made the movie even more unbearable. It’s particularly the editing that’s really annoying. So many of the cuts make many parts of the movie feel frustratingly fast paced and much of the movie felt really choppy. The transitions between scenes are cheap and jarringly annoying, quite often it does that extremely cheap slideshow swipe transition effect for a lot of the connections between scenes. When a new character is introduced, they legit have this Suicide Squad esque character introduction page where it freezes the frame and flashes their name, except it’s done worse here. There’s a scene when Mads is actually teaching something to kids and like every line he says it would cut to a flashback of him brutally killing someone in a way that is somewhat relevant to what he said to be ‘ironic’ and ‘hilarious’. An example being him being asked if people in Turkey eat turkey, Mikkelsen responds with “chicken on a skewer”, and surely enough it cuts to him stabbing someone in a head with a chicken skewer. That brings me to the gratuitous violence, sex and nudity. Movie violence really doesn’t get to me most of the time. Even when moments from Irreversible did get to me, it felt like it was there for a reason and it didn’t feel gratuitous, it was deliberately meant to be hard to watch. What does deeply bother me however is when movie violence can feel gratuitous and on screen just for the sake of putting it on screen. From the multiple amounts of pointless assassins’ torture, interrogation and murder of people, to an especially graphic murder sequence in the second half, it feels like that the filmmakers really liked putting it on screen, and it’s not even like Tarantino violence where it could be entertaining. As for the sex… I’m not exaggerating when I saw that the level of over sexualisation and misogyny in this movie is off the charts, it really does shamelessly sexualize women a ton and has all these random sex scenes that serve no purpose to the movie at all. There is literally a character who’s job it is seems to be to take her clothes off and show off her body. All this unnecessary content just makes the whole movie feel repulsive more than anything. Gratuitous violence aside, you’re probably wondering how the action is. Outside of two sequences in the first 70 minutes, it’s really only the last 40 minutes where we get to see Mads go full John Wick mode. The action itself is very hit or miss, there’s not a ton of them. The fight scenes seemed choreographed well, even if the editing and cuts don’t showcase that very well. Even some of the action scenes with great setups are very brief, so you don’t really get to enjoy them much. In terms of parts of the direction that I thought were alright, I guess the locations were good and the overall cinematography of the movie was also pretty good when everything’s not saturated.
Although I’m not completely familiar with Netflix’s entire lineup of original films, Polar seems like it ranks amongst their worst. Polar is like a bunch of edgelords tried to mix together John Wick, Crank, Punisher: War Zone and Shoot Em Up and thought that having a bunch of violence and sex would make up for a lacklustre story (spoiler alert, it doesn’t). You know that the movie is bad when each of those aforementioned movies (even Crank) come out with far more class and credibility. What makes this so painful is the fact that I wanted this movie to be great or even just fun, I love the idea of Mads Mikkelsen as a John Wick like assassin, and the movie isn’t just sub par, it is shockingly awful, far worse than I thought it would be. Aside from Mikkelsen, Hudgens and Winnick giving some okay performances, moments of good cinematography and occasionally okay action, it really isn’t good at all. I really wouldn’t be surprised if by the end of the year, this is my least favourite movie of 2019.