Certified critic on Rotten Tomatoes. Member of the Houston Film Critics Society. Also writes for Bounding Into Comics and GeeksHaveGame.
There's No Rainbows During Blow Time
Polar is based on the graphic novel Polar: Came From the Cold published by Dark Horse Comics in 2012 and written and illustrated by Victor Santos (Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters). It’s interesting that the film uses such a vibrant use of color when the graphic novel purposely utilized the lack thereof (depicted in shades of black, white, and orange). Santos has stated that films such as Tokyo Drifter, Le Samourai, Point Break, and the works of John Woo inspired Polar and that his noir fiction is a direct tribute to many artists including Alex Toth and Frank Miller.
Directed by Jonas Akerlund (Lords of Chaos, Spun), Polar opens with Johnny Knoxville dancing badly, weight lifting by a pool, getting a hummer from a woman way out of his league, and dying with a boner all to the tune of, “September,” by Earth, Wind & Fire. Par M. Ekberg’s rich cinematography immediately grabs your attention with a vast glimpse of lush green trees, the deep blue water of a pool, and a blinding white mansion out in the middle of the beautiful countryside of, “somewhere in Chile.” Doobie White’s (Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, Gamer) editing is overly flashy to the extent that it’s massively annoying. Every frame of this film is overflowing with style as its constantly evolving text that blasts across the screen screams to the sounds of metal clanging, guns reloading, or flipping through massive stacks of paper. It’s as if someone with ADHD got a hold of Polar in the editing room and attempted to make every sequence as excessive and hyperactive as possible.
Damocles Enterprises, a company that specializes in finding work for assassins, forces its agents to retire at the age of 50. Duncan Vizla (Mads Mikkelsen) is turning 50 in 14 days and is steadily preparing for his retirement by getting a health checkup and making sure all of his finances are in order. Duncan is expected to receive a check for $8.3 million once he retires and he already views himself as a retiree. However, one last job that will pay a cool $2 million pulls Duncan back in. The man who runs Damocles Enterprises, Mr. Blut (Matt Lucas), intends to kill Duncan before he can cash in with the intention of making $29 million off of all of his retiring agents that Blut insists won’t live until their special day. Now hunted by a group of new blood hit men, Duncan finds himself strangely connected to his meek and feeble neighbor named Camille (Vanessa Hudgens) and Duncan’s former reputation as The Black Kaiser begins to emerge once again.
Mads Mikkelsen is easily the highlight of Polar. Mikkelsen is often able to portray this warmth in his on-screen characters, and that is still apparent even through bloodshed and waves of violence. Despite his past and his occupation, Duncan seems like a good man deep down. The argument can be made that Duncan partakes in an overwhelming amount of sex in the film with prostitutes and women he's just met, but the character is incredibly lonely. The way he cycles through pets and women makes it seem like he’s in the search of some company for the next stage of his life that will hopefully be more relaxing and less exciting than the first half.
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Duncan attempting to be a teacher is the most humorous scene in the film. He passes a knife around a group of kids after showing them how to use it to kill someone efficiently, takes a Q&A that he is bluntly honest about, and passes around pictures of corpses that sat around in the sun for three days. Next to the finale, the tunnel sequence is Mikkelsen’s shining moment. He takes out every man that comes at him while shirtless and barefoot and if you’ve ever wanted to see a gratuitous amount of the Danish actor’s ass then Polar has you covered.
It’s also interesting to see Matt Lucas in such a prominent role. Lucas is often associated with supporting roles that are forgotten thanks to the surrounding and more recognizable cast members. In Polar, Lucas has a wardrobe that is downright flamboyant with bleached white hair that stands straight up and a bright yellow suit that makes him the center of attention whenever he walks into a room. His physical appearance isn’t entirely menacing, but his line delivery is so venomous and diabolical that you can’t help but love to hate him.
The dialogue is terribly cheesy throughout the entirety of Polar with lines like, “It’s blow time, mister,” conversations about chapstick being a tie-in for pie and being physically attracted to Jesus, and a lack of rainbows being a point of discussion during the breaking point of Duncan’s revenge. The characters in the film attempt to match how colorful the action noir film appears, but are mostly flat and forgettable; Vanessa Hudgens is basically a klutz who can’t do anything on her own whose sole purpose in life is to take pictures of animals. The film attempts to add some depth to the Camille character, but after two hours of seeing her as a weak individual you never actually buy that she’s grown a pair.
Polar is like John Wick with the flashiness of Smokin’ Aces. The fact that it’s a revenge film makes it feel like homage to Thriller: A Cruel Picture, but that may be giving the film more credit than it deserves. Mads Mikkelsen is as cool as humanly possible in a role that probably shouldn’t have allowed him to be as memorable as he is in the film, but Polar is badly written with violence that is mostly noteworthy due to how lame its computer-generated blood splatters are. There are no rainbows on the road to retirement and Polar is the downpour of regurgitated familiarity that stands in the way of a redundant experience and an unconventional deviation that is actually worth the pilgrimage.
© 2019 Chris Sawin