Polar - Review
Mads Mikkelsen and Vanessa Hudgens do what they can to salvage the horribly written and structured Polar.
So, this is what a superhero film directed by Edgar Wright would look like? No, scratch that. Sin City without the restraint. Gotham with worse source material. While watching the abysmally stylistic Polar, I often thought to myself, would I be watching this if Mads Mikkelsen weren’t in it? The second half makes a decent case for itself, but it’s a film too stained in mediocrity to engage for more than a few minutes before you’ll look to check your phone.
Based on a webcomic of the same name, Polar’s greatest strength comes when it wields the power of the source material, in moderation. Letting The Black Kaiser (Mikkelsen) off the leash to kill forty guards is brutish, Batman-esque fun that never grows old, but it’s the in-between that causes Polar to stumble. Efficient pacing has eluded many a Netflix original movie, and this is no exception: after a bombastic opener (featuring the one-and-only Johnny Knoxville), Polar spends its time puttering around the crumbs of an enticing story before it eventually stumbles into a dismally stupid one. I still can’t get over the explanation that at the hitman agency The Black Keiser is part of, every agent is forced to retire at 50. Not too odd, you might say. The agency also serves as an investment enterprise, matching all contributions to the agents’ pensions over the course of their employment. For Mikkelsen, that means eight million dollars, but the penguin-esque CEO, Blut, won’t let them cash in. He’s sent a strike force to kill Mikkelsen before he is given his full pension. It may be the most ridiculous and over-complicated way to get to relatively straightforward actions scenes I’ve seen in years. Mercifully, these scenes do the trick, providing just enough gore to keep things interesting while Blut plots his next convoluted scheme.
I have to mention, they do Richard Dreyfuss dirty in this film. Relegated to one less-than exciting barroom scene, he’s over and gone before we have any chance to know him. I would say he’s the biggest waste in the film, but, somehow, it’s Vanessa Hudgens. Believe it or not, that’s not a knock on her performance. She’s in a completely different movie than the rest of the actors, and fits perfectly with the brash charm of an actor like Mads Mikkelsen. There are some weak moments between the two, like the unnecessary and cringeworthy school scene, but that’s mostly the script’s fault. Hudgens is on her A game, even with a cliched and limited character. She and Mikkelsen are excellent foils, and the only real bright light of the film comes when the two engage in a lengthy and tense conversation over their mutual relevance to each other’s pasts. Mikkelsen is an excellent action hero on his own, but it helps when he has someone to keep him grounded.
Polar is far too ambitious for its own good. There are jump cuts, inane wigs, despicable dialogue scenes that attempt to win over the socially woke audience; it’s all bad, and it all could have been cut. As far as I’m concerned, the film begins when Blut’s strike force arrives at The Black Kaiser’s winter home (a full 45 minutes into the film). There is too much fat, and not enough substance, and at its worst moments, it makes its leading man an unwatchable idiot.