Polar (Movie Review)

Polar (Movie Review)
6 10

PLOT: When a notorious hitman reaches retirement, the company he works for sets him up in the hopes of reclaiming their lost profits. Little do they know, they're about to mess with the wrong assassin. The Black Kaiser is back in business, and this time, it's personal.

REVIEW: POLAR is No JOHN WICK  By Kalyn Corrigan  Based on the Dark Horse graphic novel POLAR: CAME FROM THE COLD, director Jonas Akerlund (LORDS OF CHAOS)’s POLAR should by all means be a rousing success. After all, it has all of the ingredients one would need to create a noteworthy hunted-turned-hunter action flick. Mads Mikkelsen playing a retired hitman looking for a serene and somber last few days, Mikkelsen having said serenity interrupted, and Mikkelsen reluctantly wiping out every last living soul in the room. However, just as ATOMIC BLONDE proved before, a silent strong type fighting for their life against an army of foes combined with a neon palette does not a JOHN WICK movie make. This is just another Chad Stahelski copycat that doesn’t come close to its broody predecessor, no matter how slick its fighter may look strutting down a darkened corridor in their all black ensemble. 

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It doesn’t help that POLAR starts out in the most random of places – poolside at the mansion of one retired Johnny Knoxville.  I’m not sure who would buy into the idea of Knoxville ever being sly enough to pull off a successful slaying, but capturing the JACKASS star snorting cocaine and spraying champagne all over a big breasted bikini clad bimbo certainly doesn’t help sell the scenario. Still, that’s the story, and Akerlund is sticking with it. It’s not long before Knoxville is wiped out before our very eyes by a team of highly trained assassins, and we learn the whole setup for the film – when hitmen in this business reach retirement, a.k.a. their fiftieth birthday, the company that employs them chooses to wipe them out rather than pony up and pay the bill that awaits them when their jobs are finally done.  

This simple solution, however, is not going to be so easily played out when it comes to “The Black Kaiser” (Mikkelsen), who has made a name for himself as the hitman that other hitmen have learned to fear. When this silent but deadly dispatcher chooses to finally lay down his trusty cannon once and for all, retiring to a quiet cottage in the countryside, the businesses that gave him his millions probably should’ve just let him go. But that’s not company policy. After tracking him down, head hitman honcho Blut (Matt Lucas) sends his A-team to take the Kaiser out, not realizing he’s biting off more than he can chew. By this point in time, the Kaiser, or Duncan Vizla, as he prefers, has already set up a brand new life for himself, surrounded by snow, cuddled up by the fire with a good book and glass of scotch, only temporarily peeling himself away from his wood paneled enclosure to occasionally share a meal with his naïve new little neighbor, Camille (Vanessa Hudgens). It’s a simple life, but one he’s quickly adapted to, and one he’s not so keen on giving up just because his old boss can’t understand when enough is enough. 

Don’t be fooled, there’s plenty of good stuff here in the straight-to-Netflix red hot revenge story POLAR. Mads Mikkelsen dead set on vengeance, Mads Mikkelsen carrying out well choreographed fight scenes with ease, Mads Mikkelsen sporting an eye patch, Mads Mikkelsen fighting off assailants stark naked in snowy encampments. There’s also the old classic tale of a man hardened by time, suddenly finding himself softened by the sweet heart of a young new companion, and, last but certainly not least, laser guns triggered by the casual whisk of Mikkelsen’s gloved palms. 

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Unfortunately, it’s all boils down to just too little, too late. The film spends an hour of its two hour runtime setting up its revenge scenario, and only about thirty minutes exacting said revenge. It’s undoubtedly exciting watching Mikkelsen attempt to set a new record for as many headshots as possible within a ten minute window -- especially during that hallway sequence when his bloody body treads painfully towards the door, taking out every soldier who dare step in his way with a simple two step punch-jab neck snap – but the editing is so quick and shoddy, it actually becomes hard to appreciate the gifts that the renowned actor is bestowing upon his audience. 

At the end of the day, POLAR is no JOHN WICK, and not just because it chooses not to take itself as seriously as its broody predecessor – or rather, seriously at all. It’s as though Akerlund fails to understand what made the movie he’s trying to mimic so iconic in the first place. It’s not about the headshots, the slo-mo protagonist walk down the street, or the well trimmed and delightfully overdue facial hair. It’s about shaping the film around the action, taking the time to correctly manifest the stunts, and hiring someone who knows how to properly shoot them. Sadly, POLAR is all style and no turn-everything-in-the-room-into-a-weapon substance. Close, but no cigar.



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