Polar - 2019
Director(s): Jonas Åkerlund
Writer(s): Jayson Rothwell (screenplay) / Víctor Santos (graphic novel)
Cinematography by: Bill Pope
Editor(s): Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss
Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Vanessa Hudgens, Katheryn Winnick, Fei Ren, Ruby O. Fee and Matt Lucas
There are very few actors working today that can get me excited to watch a film solely based on a picture. When I saw the promotional picture Netflix released of Mads Mikkelsen with a mustache and an eyepatch, I was one-hundred-percent in, and I had no clue what the film. Having seen the movie, I am still all for anything Mads, but this was an uneven and ultimately disappointing viewing. Let's talk about it.
The story follows Duncan "The Black Kaiser" (Mikkelsen), a working-class assassin 14 days away from retirement. The company he works for makes their assassins retire at the age of fifty and pays out their pension upon their birthday. However, his boss Blut (Lucas) has other plans with their pensions and is killing off any assassin closing in on their retirement. Setting them on a collision course that will leave a long trail of bodies behind. Jayson Rothwell wrote the screenplay based on a graphic novel of the same name. While I haven't read the novels, the uneven tone of the film suggests that Rothwell couldn't find a way to balance all the elements into one cohesive story. Two films are battling for the audience attention, in one you have the "cool" assassins group hired to kill Duncan by his over the top boss and on the other you have a fantastic stone-cold killer that is Duncan. Anytime Mads as Duncan is on the screen; the script is tight, fun and the action is relentless. I loved every second of it. But then when the film shifts to the other assassins and his boss, the dialogue came across goofy, giving me vibes of 2008's The Spirit.
Jonas Åkerlund shined behind the camera with the many action scenes throughout the runtime. The hallway scene during Duncan's escape being the highlight, as the camera-work places the audience right in action and the editing is tight making it seem like one continuous take. Åkerlund also doesn't shy away from the gore, with a torture scene that made me more than uncomfortable. I do wish the movie leaned away a bit from the hyper-stylized font of the character introductions and the city is currently in, as it was distracting and added to the tonal imbalance.
Polar ultimately delivered on the Mads and the action despite the forced feed coolness of the supporting cast. The film does hit its stride once the torture scene starts, and you almost forgive it for taking an hour to do so. But an hour is a lot to ask of from the audience. Mads is fantastic as the stoic one-eyed killed, while I still prefer his Valhalla Rising one-eyed killer, it is still a solid addition to his resume. Fans of action films will find a lot to love within the runtime, and it is not a bad film to watch when you want to kill time. Mads is why I love movies.
Polar is a Streamer! (literally).
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