I was fully psyched when I saw the trailer for Polar, Netflix’s adaptation of the comic series of the same name. Why not? It stars Mads Mikkelsen and Vanessa Hudgens and it looked like it packed a lot of action. Sad to say though, it was almost a trial for me to finish the movie, so bored was I with its first hour that I almost gave up altogether. The subsequent action sequences, I’m not sure, made up for the boredom.
Synopsis: At 50, professional assassin Duncan Vizla aka the Black Kaizer (Mads Mikkelsen) is ready to put his old life behind and cash in on over $8 million dollars in retirement pay that Damocles Enterprises owes him. Unfortunately, the company’s CEO Mr. Blut (Matt Lucas) has no intention of paying up and instead wants Vizla taken out of the picture so he could get the money for himself. To get to the Black Kaizer, he orders a hit on his former assassin and kidnaps his neighbor Camille (Vanessa Hudgens) as bait.
Casting Mads Mikkelsen and Vanessa Hudgens for the lead roles was smart choice for Netflix. They both have box office appeal and they have delivered on their previous roles whether in action, drama, comedy and even suspense. Mads Mikkelsen needs only to give you a look to send a message that he is not to be messed with.
This is why it was laughable that anyone would think that he could be so easily disposed of, even by Damocles’ A-team consisting of cardboard cutout characters like Facundo (Anthony Grant), the sniper; Sindy (Ruby O. Fee), the psychotic sex object; Karl (Robert Mailet), the muscle; Alexei (Josh Cruddas), the loose canon and Hilde (Fei Ren), the “supposed” femme fatale. It was a joke, plain and simple, to even believe that this low budget version of every ragtag team of assassins in previous movies of the same genre could even pose a threat to the Black Kaizer. It was so annoying to watch them take out their targets who were either unaware of their combined attack or even too helpless to fight back. Not cool.
The interactions between Duncan and Camille were no better. Although it was understandable why Camille would be an Eeyore because of her tragic experience, her gloominess was infectious, making every scene seem like a trial for both the actors and the audience alike. The contrast between Duncan and Camille’s quiet hangout sessions and the “craziness” of Team Damocles’ pursuit seemed like they were cut from two separate movies and the transition from one to another seemed off.
I did like the neo noir approach to the cinematography though, which gave the film a cool comic book feel. I particularly like Black Kaizer’s surprise ambush of Vivian (Kathryn Winnick) and the rest of Mr. Blut’s army as well as the hand to hand and gun action at the tunnel. If you have a weak stomach, the graphic torture scene might not be for you but I’ve seen worse so for me, it was still a plus to illustrate Duncan’s badassery and toughness. It was just weird to see him so fully in control of his movements when they were selling his aging at the beginning of the movie with the poor eyesight and laid back movements.
I was not particularly a fan of the surprise twist in the end because after all that action, I just wanted the film to end on a strong note but it was not to be, and viewers will again be forced to endure excessive dramatics from these two broken characters.
All in all, Polar had extremely strong and extremely boring moments that will make you feel like a yoyo for the entirety of the film. As much as I love Mads and Vanessa, I don’t think I could sit through the entire film again while fully awake. Style-wise it was cool but substance wise, not so much.