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'Polar' is all style, no substance

by Daniel O'Connell In the past few years, the Netflix Original movie has risen to prominence as a way for some studios to distribute their movies. And what kind of movies one gets wildly varies. Some are critically-acclaimed works such as Mudbound or Roma. Others are tense thrillers such as Hold the Dark. And others are straight up dreck such as The Ridiculous Six. At first glance, Polar looked like it would be one of the more interesting Netflix movies. It’s based on the webcomic of the same name, which took inspiration in its style from films such as Le Samourai and Point Blank. The comic presented itself without dialogue or speech balloons, along with a minimalist color scheme. All of these elements together make for a promising film that could break the mold of the typical Netflix Original movie. However, the result is a movie that is a complete let down.

Thin plot and underdeveloped characters

Image from IMDb
The film follows Duncan Vizla (played by Mads Mikkelsen), an international hitman who works for a company called Damocles, and is known and feared by his moniker, the Black Kaiser. He is two weeks away from retirement, looking forward to relocating to the quiet town of Twin Oaks, Montana with his $8 million pension. There, he befriends his neighbor Camille (Vanessa Hudgens), a quiet and easily frightened woman. However, this is all upended when Vizla’s former employer, Mr. Blut (Matt Lucas) sends assassins after him and kidnaps Camille. This sends the Black Kaiser on a warpath to rescue Camille and get revenge. On paper, Mads Mikkelsen playing a feared international assassin is an idea that would make for an entertaining movie, in the vein of something like The Killer or John Wick. And to Mikkelsen’s credit, he does fine in the role. The problem is that the script gives him little to work with. The most that can be said about Vizla is that he is good at his job and is haunted by a botched hit where he accidently killed a family. However, that doesn’t really go anywhere until the end of the film. Vanessa Hudgens, on the other hand, does a solid job in her role. Whereas one could play this role very blandly, Hudgens does a great job portraying someone who has been traumatized by her past, including a scene where she describes one of these events to Vizla.
Image from IMDb
While Vizla and Camille seem underdeveloped, Mr. Blut, on the other hand, just comes off as an idiot. Acting like as a cross between Tim Curry and Elton John, his plan in the movie is to avoid paying the hired assassins their pensions (worth millions of dollars) by having them killed before retirement. Trying to murder a feared and incredibly dangerous assassin so the company won’t have to pay him his pension is not only incredibly greedy, but moronic. This is repeatedly pointed out by his right-hand woman, Vivian (Kathryn Winnick), who seems like the smartest person in Damocles by repeatedly advising Blut to just pay Vizla and leave him alone. Between the underdeveloped Vizla and the idiotic Blut, there is a fun group of characters known as the A-Team: a group of assassins that take out the retiring hitmen. These range from Alexei, a redheaded, bearded man who dresses like a hipster; the sultry Sindy, who lures targets with her sex appeal; and Hilde, a woman in a catsuit with tattoos along her face. These characters seem like they would be right at home in a movie like Smokin’ Aces and are a lot of fun to watch as they try to track down Vizla. Unfortunately, they are killed off at roughly the halfway point of the movie, which is a disappointment. This movie would’ve benefitted by giving them more screen time.

Distinct style and music

Image from IMDb
One thing that this movie has going for it is its unique visual style. It features the use of a lot of saturated colors, which makes things, be it someone’s clothes or trees in the background, pop out more. This also includes how major characters are introduced in the film, where the film will pause and the character’s name in a stylized font will appear next to them. This makes the film visually interesting to look at. This also includes outfits that a character will wear, with Vivian wearing a widely different outfit and wig in almost every scene she is in. Another positive that the film has is its score, done by DJ and progressive house artist Deadmau5. It has a catchy, thumping beat to it, which fits the scene of what is going on, and complements the visual style of the film. However, despite being an action film about an international hitman, the movie is surprisingly boring. The bits of action in the film should be savored, as they are sparse and sandwiched between scenes of dull character work. The best action bits happen in the last half of the film. The most notable is where a shirtless, bloody Vizla, armed only with a handgun, fights through a hallway of armed guards. However, this one scene is not enough to look past the flaws of this movie.
Images: IMDb Featured Image: IMDb

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