I almost couldn’t finish it. I seldom quit on films halfway through. Even if it physically pains me to continue. It is even rarer for me to watch films that would physically pain to me get through in the first place. I have seen quite a few films this year already and only two had earned that dismal distinction thus far (2018’s Welcome to Marwen & the Keanu Reeves-starring Replicas). But generally, I get through movies with ease and no matter how bad they are, if the characters are good enough, I can dream of better things for those characters to do. But halfway through Polar this afternoon, I had no dreams of better things. I just wanted it to stop.
Polar is based on a webcomic of the same name. Created by Victor Santos and most notable for its lack of dialogue and minimalist color style. It’s an interesting yet familiar concept that would have done just fine with most seasoned Hollywood veterans at the helm. But in the hands of director Jonas Åkerlund and writer Jayson Rothwell, we plod through the story like walking in quicksand. The best parts of the film are hidden between all of the bad like Waldo and if you aren’t paying close attention you’ll never find them.
In the film, Duncan Vizla (Mads Mikkelsen), the world’s greatest assassin, is just two weeks from forced retirement. He’s holed up in a small cabin in Montana waiting for the day that his employer, Mr. Blut (Matt Lucas), pays out his eight-million-dollar pension. It’s there that he befriends Camille (Vanessa Hudgens), who has a rather unfortunate backstory with a rather surprising twist, but things are made more difficult when Mr. Blut orders a younger group of assassins to kill Vizla so that he can’t collect.
The scenes that we get of the younger assassins searching for Vizla are extraordinarily bad and watching them try to be edgy and humorous in terrible costuming with an awful early Instagram style color grading is more annoying than anything else. And worse, it takes away from the brief good moments between Mikkelsen and Hudgens, who both have genuinely compelling scenes when uninterrupted by low-grade action sequences. There seem to be two completely different movies in here somewhere. And as much as they try to weave themselves together to form a complete narrative, it just falls flat.
My two hours and the performances from Hudgens and Mikkelsen were wasted on this film. There is nothing here of substance and what little tries to shine through is blocked out by excess and an unimaginative plot. Netflix either knocks it out the park or it just doesn’t bother to show up and this is a “DNP” on the stat sheet. There is, of course, the potential for a sequel because of the source material. But if Åkerlund is going to give us more of the same, then it doesn’t deserve one. I almost didn’t finish it, and looking back on my afternoon, I wish I hadn’t.
I give it 1 out of 5 trash cans.