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Polar transitioned from a polarizing film with prospects of an early production from Neveldine/Taylor to a complete mess that came crashing down entirely by the hour mark. With an entirely wasteful use of a leading man and exhausting villains after their introductions, this film rarely impresses.
Jonas Åkerlund has a lot of directing credits under his belt, but unfortunately they’re primarily music video credits, and the thing about music videos is that they hardly ever make a load of sense. This is very similar to Polar, as it portrays an overindulgence in style over substance and unfortunately that style is easily outdone by several other action films in recent years. During the first hour, the style is intriguing and reaching out to be investigated, but after a hysterical action scene in a cabin, the film completely flips on its head.
Duncan (Mads Mikkelsen) is a hitman that’s almost out of time on the clock, as he’s about to become retired. Duncan takes on one last mission before collecting his pension. The twist is that this last mission is a hit on himself to seize him from gaining access to any money once he retires. However, this doesn’t quite go according to plan, and things quickly escalate. The base of the plot is relatively simplistic; having a hitman being hunted down to have his retirement plan be given back to the employee is a simple yet refreshing plot that is obnoxiously soiled by additional content ruining not only the flow of the story but the sense that it makes altogether.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
The characters aren’t realistic, and when they’re played off as such, it ruins the effect of these characters coming straight from a graphic novel. This is a rare happening, however, once the first hour lands, the story becomes a sloppy action film based around uninteresting characters with little to no motives delivered in the direction or writing. Mikkelsen’s Duncan is the highlight of the film, as you can tell that the actor behind the role truly wanted to make a great film, even if it’s just for fun. However once that fun layer of filmmaking was filtered through, the film became bland, even with Mikkelsen’s best efforts. Another great example is Blut (Matt Lucas) as an eccentric villain unlike anything I’d ever thought Lucas would be able to portray. However when his character works, it works phenomenally. An overall lack of character development makes this villain a little underwhelming and a little more by-the-numbers than such a strange criminal should be. The remainder of the characters are wacky, out there, and are overly underwhelming, mainly because of their short screen times. Johnny Knoxville even makes a cameo first thing in the film only to be gotten rid of astonishingly fast. The worst fate the film has is bland characters, but the fate of the worst one on the roster goes to Vanessa Hudgens, as bland as bland can be, and only to become the damsel in distress and relay the big twist finale that nobody needed to come, especially when delivered with this abysmal performance.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
That repetition which was just spoken of continues onward into sound as that “gunshot” has much more than just a bang, and it grows tiresome with every text that launches across the screen. The score is retrofitting, and it functions well with the odd tone the film attempts to capture. It’s certainly not overwhelming or underwhelming, but it’s not as memorable as the composer sought it out to be. The fight scene effects act as though they were second thought, slow, and unrelated to the action taking place. It’s a truly missed possibility to make the action be something more than it is.
Opportunities are severely missed in the visual representation of the characters and story. There’s a grim tone hovering over everything, and with the wacky villainous designs, along with the bizarre supertechnolgical weapon at the end of the film, the tone feels incredibly unorthodox for a movie of this nature. Attempting to manipulate the current-day system of graphic novel films but failing to capture the wonderful fluency of the film’s of the modern era such as the Kingsman or Kickass series’. Even the immediate character announcements and title text, which showcase a fast paced “gunshot” style of writing, becomes immersed in its tedious repetition.
The amount of scenes that get spoiled in trailers has gotten a bit ridiculous, and because Netflix releases normally just a single one, it reveals way too much. This is unfortunately the case for Polar, as it scrapes the bottom of the barrel to pull out these scenes. This is truly the reason the film is mildly enjoyable until that unfortunate hour mark. Polar is a failure in a lot of regards, but it’s most so in the realm of possibilities. It’s not that the film is completely bad, it’s just that it’s an absolute mess. Going from a fun, enthusiastic, yet slightly annoying Neveldine/Taylor film into a John Wick or Kingsman copycat that never can hit any of the same beats. Skip the film, as most of the best scenes are in memes or gifs anyway.