“Polar” – Review (A New Twist on an Old Formula)


Polar (2019) Netflix

“POLAR” is an action movie now streaming on Netflix starring Mads Mikkelsen. Directed by Jonas Akerlund, it’s based on the Dark Horse graphic novel by Victor Santos. It’s loaded with gratuitous… everything. It’s way over-the-top and overflowing with a vibrant edginess. Mads Mikkelsen is a retired assassin that finds his former employer turning on him when it comes time to pay his pension. It’s cheaper to kill him than it is to pay his $8 million-dollar retirement policy. But it will not be so easy Mikkelsen’s character is a top-tier assassin known as The Black Kaiser. It’s a bad-ass nickname and he owns it as a crew of younger assassin’s will soon learn as they attempt to kill him no matter who gets in the way.

This was without a doubt a crazy film. It was a wild ride and it does have some ups-and-downs. I will say this movie may not be to everyone’s taste. It’s loaded with gratuitous violence and sex which may turn some off. Both the gore of the violence, and the acrobatics of the sex-scenes do reach silly levels at times given there wasn’t much of a need for the level of spectacle. Also, some of the characters are extremely over-bloated with style and really didn’t provide much more than that to the point it felt like a different movie when these characters were on-screen. The tone does have some large swings. It’s comically over-the-top in sections, then there are others where it shows effort in taking itself seriously. Honestly these tonal shifts were a little weird, but almost comical in a way.

However, if you like ultra-violent assassin movies and don’t mind some sex-scenes that many pornologist’s would say borderline soft-core, then there is certainly some fun to be had here. I will say the movie is leaps and bounds better when Mikkelsen is on-screen. He embodied the role of (retired assassin conveniently pull out of retirement) as good as anyone could have. The story is admittedly routine. It’s your typical assassin double-crossed by his employer, assassin must kill everyone trope, but I had fun with it. The main character was not overly ambitious in creation, but it worked for the needs of the story to create a man that was not a good-guy, but a likable one. He was far from Liam Neeson in “Taken” this also wasn’t a bad guy trying to be an anti-hero. It was a bad guy, doing bad-guy things.

The Black Kaiser was a killing machine with a slight level of heart to him and it was nicely captured through his subplot with Vanessa Hudgens character. Again, this was another trope we have seen before, but it still provided enough genuineness to it that was able to connect with me and peak my interest in where it would go. But to me the story was simply a vehicle for the violent action-sequences, which I loved. Mikkelsen was fantastic in these scenes. He put in the physical work to look and fit the part and it made the killing spree’s a ton of fun to watch. It was a blend of gun-play, hand-to-hand combat, and a variety of other styles that I enjoyed watching. I love violent action movies and while this one didn’t blow me away story-wise, Mikkelsen and the violent action set-pieces did and in the end were a lot of fun.

The direction from Akerlund and the cinematography from Par Ekberg blended together nicely to create a vibrant visual appeal. The high contrasting color choices and a routine over saturation of them are bold. It’s eye catching and provides an energy to the story, and a personality to it and the characters. The construction of the action-sequences was well done. They were fluid and had a rhythm to them that showcased the choreography nicely. They weren’t over orchestrated, and it resulted in some gritty sequences that pulled me up in my seat. Plus, Mikkelsen being able to provide a ton of his own stunt-work did cut back on the over-editing we often see in these sequences.

I think this movie was a good time, but it was a little messy tone-wise. I think some of the characters could have been better developed to create more believable opponents for the Black Kaiser. I also feel the foundation to the company that employed this assassin was a weakness. It was missing all the charm and appeal of say the structure of the assassin world in “John Wick” and felt a little cut-and-paste. This though was a two-trick pony that being the action scenes, and Mikkelsen in the lead. And both of those tricks were awesome and seeing Mikkelsen relentlessly killing anyone in his way was a great time that I recommend checking out.


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