Review: Polar

4 10

PLOT: Duncan Vizla (Mads Mikkelsen) is one of the world’s top hitmen, but he’s being forced into retirement due to his employer’s policy that hitmen can’t work past the age of fifty. Rather than pay out his multimillion-dollar pension, his employer opts to send his best hitmen to eliminate Vizla, only to realize far too late that the older but distinctly not over-the-hill hitmen outclasses anyone he dares send.

REVIEW: Imagine a spinoff of JOHN WICK where one of the hundreds - or rather thousands - of killers coming after Keanu Reeves goes home, licks his wounds and winds up jumping into an adventure of his own. That’s POLAR, which tries really hard to be another JOHN WICK but is too sophomoric to ever pass muster as much more than a B-movie, despite a having a few redeeming features, such as some decent action choreography and a top-notch, unusual lead in Mads Mikkelsen.

Part of the problem is director Jonas Åkerlund’s style, which is so over-the-top and cartoonish its like the makers of this never actually had a handle on what made JOHN WICK the success it became — even if it was a like a comic book come to life (which POLAR actually is — being based on a graphic novel) it took the threat and menace of the world its set in seriously. POLAR doesn’t do this, poking so much fun at the genre that it plays out like a spoof, which would be fun had it been funny. The gags, such as Mikkelsen adopting a dog JOHN WICK-style but then accidentally shooting the pooch himself, seem mean-spirited. They also try to have it both ways, breaking from the slapstick comedy, complete with an extremely over-the-top Matt Lucas as the big bad, to get ultra-serious with Vanessa Hudgens’s character, Mads’s quiet neighbour (with a secret- ooh) who gets put through the wringer when the baddies abduct her to get at our anti-hero.

I actually think POLAR would have been relatively decent had it run a half-hour shorter, with too many jokey asides in the first half, and long-winded action scenes that don’t involve Mikkelsen (such as a hit on a cameo-ing Johnny Knoxville) padding out the running time. The movie only picks up steam once Mikkelsen and Hudgens start interacting, and only gets really good once Mads goes on the warpath in the last half hour or so, following a brutal torture scene that goes on and on.

Åkerlund seems like the wrong guy to direct a hitman thriller, being too grand guignol. Sometimes this works, like in his underrated SPUN and the upcoming LORDS OF CHAOS, but shoehorned into an action film, the result is exhausting. The fact is, this should have been a major win for Netflix, and it’s not hard to imagine them having been able to spin POLAR off into a small-scale series of action movies for Mikkelsen, who has a lot of charm and makes for a credible action hero. Sadly, the movie is just too much and I bet the completion rate on this one ranks pretty low for the streamer. It’s a good idea with mostly poor execution, which is a real shame as this had a whole lot of potential.

Source: JoBlo.com



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