A rare deed of terrible filmmaking emerging from a unique combination of guileless over-confidence and frightful neglect, Polar is one to scroll past.
Testing this author’s ability to see this film through, a rare feat in itself, sparingly has a picture so tonally disparate and ill-judged been backed by such recognisable talent.
Hannibal veteran Mads Mikkelsen, who should have known better, stars as the Black Kaiser, an assassin whose ‘guild’ would have him retire at 50 and collect his $8 million pension. Fast approaching that date and unwilling to pay him out, Matt Lucas’ absurd and utterly unwatchable villain dispatches a motley crew of colleagues to collect the sum for themselves.
Commencing with Johnny Knoxville partaking in drugs and being gunned down in front of his mansion while engaging in a sex act as a demonstration of this crew’s capabilities, somehow Polar only gets worse. The assassins, none of whom receive anything beyond bare characterisation, run amok tracking down the Kaiser, proffering needless, vilely gratuitous acts of violence; the repeated attempts to assassinate a very obese man being an especially low point.
Most short-changed of all is Ruby O. Fee as assassin Sindy whose skills seems to relate largely to her wearing very little clothing if that; the actress herself the subject of low-lying camera-angles and the like that might just make the most dated of 90’s cinema blush.
No it is not uncommon for stated thrillers to have one or more glamorous female and/or male members of their cohort; for an example of how a nominally comparable role can be better handled see, say, Baby Driver. Eiza Gonzalez’ character, overwhelmingly distinguished for having a role largely comparable to the rest of the robbers, was too memorably glamorous in the likes of sequences and turns too permitted her male co-stars. Sindy, worlds apart, is a one-note role done no favours by Polar’s single-minded Direction.
Buttressing all this is the Kaiser slowly settling in to retirement in far-north USA – in solitude but for one neighbour and one alone, played by Vanessa Hudgens. The earnestness with which the film pursues this storyline is woefully undermined by both the corresponding assassins’ pursuit and an absurd twist you’ll see coming several sights away.
The hallmark and much-publicized centrepiece, a bloody showdown in a warehouse, delivers its punch and retreats all too quickly; leaving us with nothing but this repeatedly paining narrative. The hallway scene, intendedly another highlight, falls largely flat amid too many quick cuts and even more so coming off the heels of three seasons of Daredevil and it’s ilk.
Yes the violent cruxes are pursuing an overblown, Tarantino-esque aesthetic but for all that Tarantino musters in his most blood-filled shockers he spends time, both before, after and during key sequences, establishing the breadth of their impact and allowing us time to breath. There is none of that here; no reckoning, no time to process the abjectness we’ve seen and no attempt to portray the impact of violence depicted on any individual, save one denouement central to Hudgen’s ridiculous arc and admittedly a moment in a rental apartment portrayed by Fee.
Failing to at all marry it’s tonally divergent ends, what emerges is a regrettable picture that deserves to be confined to the depths of Netflix’s catalogue if it is indeed to be featured. Avoid.
Polar is now streaming on Netflix