Possible spoilers ahead!!
The Netflix film “Polar” is based on the webcomic-turned-graphic novel of the same name by Victor Santos. “Polar,” tells the story of infamous assassin Duncan Vizla/The Black Kaiser (Mads Mikkelsen), who is weeks away from retiring after a long career. But the organization he worked for wants him hunted down before he can retire. Why?
Because the company’s leader, Blut (Matt Lucas) decides It’s cheaper to kill Duncan than it is to pay him the $8 million-dollar retirement pension he’s owed. Blut’s second in command, Vivian (Katheryn Winnick) repeatedly warns him going after Duncan is a bad idea, and suggests paying him is the smart move. That way she argues, they don’t have to look over their shoulder for the rest of their lives.
Blut refuses to take the advice, and instead sends his most elite squad of assains to take Duncan down. The foursome takes out anyone that may know where Duncan is living, but as the body count rises, Duncan is living a quiet life in his Montana cabin. However, the assassins eventually track him down, and when they involve Duncan’s innocent neighbor, Camille (Vanessa Hudgens), he isn’t just out of retirement – he’s out for blood.
“Polar” was without a doubt a crazy film. This is not a movie for everyone, and it certainly wasn’t what I expected at all. The Jonas Åkerlund directed film is a wild ride from start to finish, with a ton of action, sex, and a massive body count. “Polar” was also a lot darker than I would have thought based on the trailers, but there are still a few laughs along the way.
One of the best things “Polar” has going for it is its lead, Mads Mikkelsen. It’s clear the actor put in the work to look like the killing machine Duncan supposed to be. He looks great in the fight scenes and convinced me he was someone to fear. But Mikkelsen also gives Duncan a nice amount of heart, which was nicely captured through his subplot with Vanessa Hudgens’ character.
While this type of relationship is another trope we have seen before in films like this. But, it still provided enough genuine dramatic moments that it kept me interested in the fates of these two characters. I’m no fan of Vanessa Hudgens, but she did a nice job with the part. This is certainly the most grown-up role I’ve seen her in and I appreciated that her relationship with Duncan was one of father figure rather than a love interest.
However, that subplot is simply a vehicle for the over the top violent action-sequences in “Polar.” Mikkelsen was fantastic in these scenes, with a nice blend of gun-play, hand-to-hand combat, and dark humor. He made the killing spree’s a ton of fun to watch. which I realize is a strange thing to say.
One of my favorite action sequences was the one where Duncan tells one of the assassins sent to kill him, “Try not to be afraid.” He says it over and over again in a calm manner, and even explains why he’s saying. With just a few words, he showed how menacing Mikkelsen could be without a gun. It’s a simple scene, but quite effective I thought.
As I said before, Mads Mikkelsen is the best thing “Polar” has going for it. But this comes at the expense of some of the other characters who get little to no development. I’m still not sure why Blut (Matt Lucas) refused to pay any of his retired assains. Maybe he was just cheap, but considering how much he was spending on killing his former employees, it might have been cheaper just to pay them off.
Some of the supporting cast of character are almost cartoon versions of killers including a quiet one, the sex-pot, and more. One of the assassins sent to kill Duncan has one job: seduce the target. So, of course, we get more than one sex scene with her and so many ass shots that I lost count. Some of her scenes were the type of stuff you’d see on Cinemax after dark.
The only supporting character that gets any sort arc is Vivian (Katheryn Winnick). For much of the film, we don’t really know which side she stands on. I got the feeling maybe Duncan had been some type of mentor to her, so she was well aware of what he could do to them, but I don’t recall if this was ever confirmed or not.
I also liked Vivian’s sense of style. I think she had a different look in every scene she was in. Unfortunately, we don’t get to see her in action. Most of the time she’s on the phone or yelling at Blut. But I liked her and was left wanting to know more about this mysterious assassin.
In the end, “Polar” is a roller coaster ride of a film with some good and bad parts. However, if you like ultra-violent assassin movies and don’t mind some borderline sex-scenes, then “Polar” is just right for you. If nothing else, it’s checking out for Mads Mikkelsen’s performance.
“Polar” score: B (speak)