Cinema, like all art forms, is subjective and personal, whilst the masses may love a film, you may hate it, or vice versa. The second film in our latest Netflix binge, Polar, is a perfect example of why it is important to take reviews with a pinch of salt, and make up your own mind.
Polar had been on my radar since its release at the end of January but having seen several rather negative reviews, I kept putting it off. As it turns out, I found it to be a thoroughly entertaining B-movie that felt like the illegitimate love-child of Kill Bill and John Wick.
The premise of Polar is relatively simple; Duncan Vizla aka ‘The Black Kaiser’ (Mads Mikkelsen), the world’s top assassin, is two weeks away from retirement and the 8 million dollar pay out that comes with it. However, if he dies before he retires, his contract stipulates that all the money in his pension pot will go back to the company. His boss, Mr Blut (Matt Lucas) decides to capitalise on this loophole and take out all of his aging assassins.
If there is one thing that cinema has taught me, it’s that you do not double cross your best assassin and, for the love of God, do not mess with his wife, girlfriend, dog or, in this case, the sweet and timid neighbour, Camille (Vanessa Hudgens).
The script is a little weak but visually, the storytelling and cinematography are really well done, and gives this film two separate personalities. Mikkelsen’s sombre and world-weary portrayal of the ageing assassin, haunted by mistakes in his past, is perfectly reflected in the beautiful landscape shots and muted colour palate that accompanies his scenes. On the other hand, Mr Blut and his younger assassins are bright, vibrant and colourful caricatures, seemingly straight out of a comic book. Imagine Heath Ledger’s Joker in Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin, and you’ll be in the right ballpark.
Mikkelsen was perfect in this role and joins the likes of Liam Neeson, Bruce Willis and Denzel Washington in proving that action films are no longer just a young man’s game. Something that is perhaps symbolised in the films ‘retire at 50’ policy and Duncan’s ability to wipe the floor with the younger assassins that are sent to kill him.
I’ll admit that I was both distracted and somewhat disconcerted upon seeing Matt Lucas in this type of film but in a weird way, it works. Yes, there are a couple of lines of dialogue that were a bit too ‘Little Britain‘ for my liking but overall, Lucas makes for an enjoyable yet utterly detestable villain.
Initially, Hudgens’ character, Camille, seemed to be there just to a) show the big, scary assassin’s more sensitive side and b) be the stereotypical damsel-in-distress. However, her main purpose eventually becomes clear and the film nicely sets up a Camille/Duncan sequel.
My biggest disappointment with this film is the use, or rather misuse, of Katheryn Winnick, who in real life is a multi-level black belt in both Tae Kwon Do and Karate. Also, if you are at all familiar with the TV series, Vikings, you will already know that Winnick excels in a strong female role. Unfortunately, in this film her skills and tenacity are under used and she is relegated to an assistant type lackey with absolutely no action at all. I want to see her kick some ass, God-damn it!!
This film is not for the faint-hearted or easily offended. It is packed full of violence, nudity and some dark, dark humour. There is a wickedly funny scene where Duncan is doing a show-and-tell for some young schoolchildren and a shocking ‘shouldn’t-laugh-but-I-did’ scene that some John Wick fans may not appreciate.
Admittedly, Polar is not going to win any awards but for a quiet night in with the other half, this film ticks a lot of boxes. So grab the popcorn, turn off the lights, settle down on the sofa and prepare to be entertained.
Seen it? Let me know your thoughts.