I was hoping the trashy and cringe-worthy opening to Jonas Åkerlund’s “Polar” was an exception – a simple case of a movie getting off on the wrong foot. Turns out it’s more prophecy than anomaly. It serves as a good indicator (and warning sign) of what to expect from this objectionable and utterly frustrating Netflix Original.
For much of its two-hour running time “Polar” feels like two separate movies in one. The first follows an absurd motley crew of killers as they travel across the country looking for hyper-stylized ways to murder people for Åkerlund’s camera. It’s quite vulgar and off-putting. The second focuses on a retiring assassin Duncan Vizla (Mads Mikkelsen) as he takes to a new life off the grid. He moves into a remote mountain cabin in Montana where he befriends a quiet young neighbor Camille (Vanessa Hudgens).
These quieter moments with Duncan are promising and offer a good setup to the violence we know is on the way. Unfortunately whenever the above storylines cross paths Åkerlund ramps up the excess to ludicrous levels. He seems to operate under the mantra of ‘the bloodier and smuttier the better’ as long as you soak it all in blinding bright colors and use plenty a crafty camera angles.
Not that it matters, but the merry band of sadistic killers work for Duncan’s former boss, the embarrassingly bad antagonist Mr. Blut (Matt Lucas). He’s one of those pathetically weak and painfully dumb crime bosses who are nearly impossible to buy into. You can’t help but wonder why his many powerful male and female laptogs follow his orders like lemmings. But I digress.
Mr. Blut wants Duncan dead so that he doesn’t have to pay the $8 million of contractually obligated retirement money. But even the dopiest crime boss should know you don’t double-cross your top assassin, especially when his nickname is “The Black Kaiser” and he’s played by Mads Mikkelsen. Katheryn Winnick plays Blut’s right-hand woman (I think) and the only person with sense enough to know that turning on Duncan is probably a bad idea.
Sadly the blaring, obnoxious part with its ramped up violence and its unabashed scuzziness smothers out the more observational and introspective part. We’re left with a movie that seems to relish the mindless bloodshed, gratuitous sex, and glaring objectification. It’s sold out on looking cool and blinding us with its ‘style’ but doesn’t consider its story or its characters. It’s a shame because Åkerlund delivers some jaw-dropping images and he casts a great lead. But Mikkelsen is too good of an actor for this. He could easily shine in this kind of role, but this relentless mess is a complete waste of his talents.
VERDICT – 1.5 STARS