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Film Review: Polar

6 February 19 words: Fabrice Gagos

It's fair to say that our Fabrice was less than impressed with Mads Mikkelsen's new Netflix feature... 

Director: Jonas Åkerlund

Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Vanessa Hudgens, Katheryn Winnick

Running time: 118 mins

Oh boy, that was painful. And not in a good way. So let’s make it quick...

Duncan Vizla aka The Black Kaiser (Mikkelsen) is two weeks away from retirement as a top assassin for a shady organisation called Damocles. His retirement plan includes a very comfortable pension which his boss, Blut (Matt Lucas), is not willing to pay. Vivian (Winnick), Duncan’s point of contact within the organisation, sends him on a last mission to Belarus, which soon turns out to be a scheme to get rid of him. But Duncan is a total badass so, it doesn’t work as planned. Blut has no other choice than to send his own team of young, restless and messy (who said stupid?) assassins on Duncan’s trail.

The movie begins by introducing this team while they dispose of another former agent played by ex-Jackass Johnny Knoxville.  That’s when I should have known that something was going terribly wrong.

When I first saw the trailer, I was pretty excited, it looked like an unofficial Metal Gear Solid adaptation with Mads Mikkelsen playing an Old Snake. I probably made this conclusion too quickly, influenced by the fact that Mikkelsen is working with Hideo Kojima on his upcoming game, Death Strand. But to be honest, the trailer is comfortably the best two minutes of this new Netflix production.

I was just watching a director with nothing to say waiting to be praised for his boldness

The film itself seems to have been written, directed and produced by a (not particularly clever) twelve-year-old boy on a temper tantrum. Actors are just shamelessly coasting along, lost in an epileptic, lazy production trying desperately to be cool. 

I won’t even talk about the so-called subversion of the so-called hyper violence; the ridiculous torture scene is only hard to watch only because you feel vicarious embarrassment. So I just turned my TV off and waited until the next day to watch the end of the movie. To be subversive and to film hyper-violence purposely, you need some understanding of how to tell a story. Here, I was just watching a director with nothing to say waiting to be praised for his boldness.

Only Mikkelsen seems invested in his character, despite a clear lack of direction. He even manages to create a somewhat credible socially awkward, highly-skilled killer. And I wanted to like him. I swear. But even if Polar had been released in the 90s, there would be no salvation. That’s how bad it is.

If you’re craving for some pulp noir action, treat yourselves with Paul McGuigan’s Lucky Number Slevin or Park Chan Wook’s Oldboy instead of wasting your time trying to make sense of this mess.

Did you know? Polar is the fourth time actor Mads Mikkelsen plays a character with a missing/damaged left eye, after Rochefort in The Three Musketeers, One Eye in Valhalla Rising and Le Chiffre in Casino Royale.

Polar is available on Netflix now

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