Simple review: Stark raving Mads
As we trudge through the miserable movie month ( that’s alliteration, kids) of January there is one thing any cinephile should be thankful for, Netflix! While Hollywood has not delivered its best options this month, Netflix has been throwing everything it can at television screens around the world to see if anything sticks. One of the titles that caught my eye, and my excitement, was Polar starring everyone’s favorite Danish badass Mads Mikkelsen. Ever since he first hit my cinematic radar as Le Chiffre in Casino Royale, I have tried my best to watch anything he is in as he is an excellent actor and, frankly, cool as wish I could be! So when Netflix offers up Mads as a retiring assassin looking for vengeance I knew it was a must watch. Did Polar hit its target and entertain me on this cold January night, or did it stink on ice? What’s that? You want me to stop with the cold puns? ” I’m afraid that my condition has left me cold to your pleas of mercy.” ( Holy bad movie quotes! I used a quote from the worst Batman movie ever!)
Polar does not have the most unique plot and it will draw heavy comparisons to another “retired assassin out for revenge” movie starring Ted Theodore Logan. Basically, we follow Duncan (Mads Mikkelsen) a close to retirement hitman that gets done wrong by the organization he works for forcing him to unleash Hell on all parties involved in the double cross. While that runs parallel to Mr. Wicks wild ride, John Wick is a streamlined action flick that is damn near perfect in what it is. Polar has much more going on through its runtime which keeps it different enough from John Wick to maintain your interest in this actioner. As you know I have to be completely honest with you, my constant reader, because I value this relationship too damn much to ruin it with lies and as such I have to admit I did grade this movie on a curve as it is on Netflix and I don’t want Mads to find me and hurt me! Let’s take out a contract on Polar and put this review on ice!
The first positive thing I can point out in Polar is painfully obvious to you by now, but Mads is the reason to watch this flick. He can go from an imposing, intimidating killing machine in one scene to a vulnerable man with deep regrets from his past as well as a longing to do what is right. It is amazing how much he can convey as an actor through a simple look that shows emotions ranging from sadness to compassion to flat out scary intimidation. If you are a fan of his work, you will not be disappointed by Mads in this one. Plus he wears a cool eye patch, bonus points! Vanessa Hudgens gives a surprisingly effective performance as Duncan’s neighbor Camille. Camille has been damaged by events in her past and Hudgens does a nice job making her a sympathetic character that you want Duncan to help. She does overdo it at sometimes, but not to the point it becomes distracting. Another actress that stood out was Katheryn Winnick, as Vivian, a high up in the organization that gets trapped between her boss and the threat she knows Duncan is. Katheryn brings sympathy to her character as she knows she has to follow her bosses orders but her strategies to resolve the situation go unheaded leading to the conclusion she knows is coming. Richard Dreyfuss shows up for a quick scene, and as a fan of all things Jaws, it brought a smile to my face.
Director Jonas Akerlund delivers some beautiful shots, with my favorites being the end of the fight with the main bad guy, any with Mads looking terrifying and the last shot of the movie as the camera moves away from the two main characters. That last shot shows that Jonas can use the camera in an effective and subtle way which I wish he would have indulged in more. There is one thing he does not shy away from and that is gore and sex. If you are at all squeamish about such things this movie is not for you. This is a violent movie with buckets of blood to spare and enough nudity to make the internet blush. I tentatively add this to the positive list as too many movies hold back from the violence and sex trying to keep the right rating for the most profit. This movie throws that out the window and dives headlong into the gore and naughtiness which is strangely admirable. Plus my inner 15-year-old is easily entertained by such things.
Despite these positives, Polar is not without its flaws, the biggest being the contrasting tones of this movie. This movie was adapted from a graphic novel, something I did not know until the end credits, and parts of it are over the top and cartoony as it tries to be a comic book come to life on the screen. However, this stands in stark contrast to the rather dramatic story of Duncan as deals with his impending retirement and the double cross from the corporation. It is a bit jarring to go from a loud, ultra-violent and gory scene with silly looking villains to Mads Mikkelsen quietly dealing his new life. It is like the filmmakers started making this live-action cartoon version of a comic book movie then they cast Mads in the lead and realized he is too good of an actor to be in that type of movie and changed its direction. If they would have toned down the silliness of the villains, fleshed them out a bit more and played it a bit less for laughs the movie would have been better for it. The main bad guy is the least threatening and unfrightening bad guy I have seen in a movie in quite some time. Think Elton John, only less intimidating and you have the main bad guy.
A few more quick hits of negative waves for Polar and we will wrap up this chilly review. There is an actress that is, no doubt, a beautiful woman but I am convinced her rear end should have gotten its own screen credit as it is in the movie more than some of the other actors. ( again, my inner 15-year-old did approve) There is a weird scene in a school that I think was meant to be funnier than it actually is. It comes off a little creepy, to be honest. There is a character that simply shows up to help our hero with what he needs then disappears from the movie, which is lazy screenwriting and that will not be tolerated in this dojo! And for the love of all that is good in this world, please do not let hitmen adopt any more pet dogs!!!
I have one more thing to comment on that isn’t a criticism, in fact, I find it fun to watch. Clearly, this movie is made by non-Americans and I love the way they portray us goofy Americans in such an over the top stereotypical way. To anyone reading this outside of the United States, it is fun to see what we look like through your eyes as we do tend to think the world revolves around us. Forgive us, but to be fair we DID land men on the moon and you didn’t!
We have reached the end of this rolling snowball of a review and it didn’t get here a moment too soon. As I said, I graded this one on a curve and, as such, I recommend Polar as a fun way to spend a chilly winter evening. If you are a fan of violent action films that do not skimp on the gore and nudity, this one is right up your alley. Mads Mikkelsen is worth watching this movie and I kind of hope they make a sequel but with a little less cartoon style villains. Have fun with this one and please let me know what you think in the comments section. Do not forget to like, follow and share this stellar review and together we can change the world!
As always, thanks for your time!
The Movie Psycho