TL;DR – This is a film that revels in the tonal whiplash, but aside from an interesting performance from Mads it never quite comes together.
Score – 2 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
One of the things I have been really enjoying the last couple of years is how action films are taking leaps and bounds with their cinematography and storytelling. This has led to some interesting films being made that explore weird and wonderful scenarios. Today we are looking at a film that first came into being as a graphic novel and you can see that DNA all throughout this film. Though while Polar has made the jump from the page to the big screen, or at least as big a screen as you want with Netflix, I am not sure it was a completely successful transition.
So to set the scene, we open in the wilds of Chile where Michael Green (Johnny Knoxville) is very much enjoying the last few days before his retirement, with drugs, booze, and of course women. Just one problem, one of those things is about to kill him, and sure enough, he is not long for this world. Back in America, Duncan (Mads Mikkelsen) is a fortnight away from his own mandatory retirement when he finds out that many of the agents form the hitman company he works for has been killed in recent days. Vivian (Katheryn Winnick) his contact and his handler for Mr Blut (Matt Lucas) lets him know that they have found the person killing all their agents and Duncan is tasked with going to Belarus to send a message. Just one problem, all is not what it seems.
if this film had a theme it would be that of tonal whiplash, as all throughout
the film, it jumps from the serious to
the absurd and then back again, sometimes within the space of thirty seconds. A
good film can navigate these jumps if a lot of work has gone into the characterization
and worldbuilding to support the universe. However, here outside of the character
of Duncan we don’t really get much of that. This leaves the film ricocheting
from erection prop gags to a prostate exam to severe
post-traumatic stress to extended shots of lotion being squirted out of a tube,
and well it does not fit together. It did feel at times that some of the
worldbuilding got lost in the edit which just didn’t help at all.
This means that what we get is two different films being smashed together into a whole that is probably not as good as the sum of its parts. So, on the one hand, we have a straight down the line R-rated action flick starring Mads Mikkelsen in a similar vein to John Wick bar the fact that it is someone else who kills the dog this time around. On the other hand, you have this weird over-the-top almost juvenile spy film like they took Suicide Squad and smashed it together with RED. It also is a film that very much ramps up the sex and violence with both shown in extreme detail, occasionally at the same time, and that torture scene was a bit too much.
I have been quite negative about this film, and for good reason, there are
moments that do shine through the clutter, though there will be some [SPOILERS] ahead. The fist is Mads
Mikkelsen’s acting, which is always a treasure to watch. Here he throws all of
himself into the role, including his body, and it makes for some fascinating if
not difficult viewing at times. As well as this, I did like the story they
built around the characters of Duncan and Camille (Vanessa Hudgens). In many respects, I am more interested in the next possible film they set up at the end than anything I saw here because of how
this relationship played out. There are also some really interesting moments
like when Duncan goes to a school to talk about working in the ‘funeral
business’ or how all the guards noped the heck out of there rather than get
gunned down by the oncoming storm. There are also some really good action
beats, like the tunnel fight.
In the end, can we recommend Polar? Unfortunately, no I don’t think we can. While Mads is giving a commendable performance, the tonal whiplash creates a level of dissidence that is at best distracting and at worst really detracts from the film.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow
Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV,
he’ll be talking about International Relations,
or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Polar
Directed by – Jonas Åkerlund
Screenplay by – Jayson Rothwell
Based on – Polar: Came From the Cold by Víctor Santos
Music by – Deadmau5
Cinematography by – Pär M. Ekberg
Edited by – Doobie White
Starring – Mads Mikkelsen, Vanessa Hudgens, Katheryn Winnick, Matt Lucas, Fei Ren, Ruby O. Fee, Robert Maillet, Anthony Grant, Josh Cruddas, Lovina Yavari, Julian Richings & Ayisha Issa with Richard Dreyfuss & Johnny Knoxville
Rating – Australia: R18+