by Dan Brenic
A mixed bag of a script wastes a good performance from Mads Mikkelsen.
When a movie features your protagonist shooting a dog for a seemingly comedic effect in the first 30 minutes of your film, you had better make sure every other aspect of your movie can make up for it. For Polar, that task seemed impossible from even before said dog murder. Polar stars Mads Mikkelsen as Duncan Vizla, an aging hitman on the verge of retirement at the age of fifty. The organization he works for will pay him out a pension of $8 million upon his 50th birthday. Because the company is trying to be sold or at the very least wants to appear profitable for investors, Duncan’s organization plans to kill him before he can collect so that his pension can go back into the company. It’s a basic plot that serves to move the movie forward, and that’s all it ever needed to be.
The movie opens on a lavish mansion owned by Michael Green, played surprisingly by Johnny Knoxville. Green is living the newly retired life before being assassinated by a team of four and serving as the proving ground that what Duncan will be up against will be formidable. Except that in the next hour or so, these characters are shown to be nothing more than cannon fodder, played mostly for comic relief. It’s here where the movie truly falters. These characters are played for laughs while Duncan’s relationship with Camille, which I’ll get into in a minute, is portrayed as more dramatic and serious. These tonal hard shifts in the first hour of the movie make it very difficult to get into. The film can’t tell if it wants to be an action-comedy or an action-drama and it takes it out on the viewer.
Duncan comes to befriend his neighbor Camille, played by Vanessa Hudgens, and they grow into a friendship that winds up having more tragic undertones that we find out about as the movie goes on. This is where the film is any good is the relationship these two characters have. Hudgens is surprising, especially being that I only know of her from High School Musical, and Mikkelsen is his usual self, putting on a good show even if the script is letting him down.
The cinematography is very stylized, standard, and beautiful. The action scenes unfold reminiscently of Sin City in a very over the top manner, and the camera matches that style. During quieter moments, there’s nothing flashy or bad about the camerawork; it’s just standard. The establishing shots do a great job of showing how beautiful the vistas of both heavily wooded areas and cityscapes alike. The only negative, and it’s only a negative because John Wick exists, is that the camerawork is tremendously cut heavy during the action scenes. While Mads is doing a good job acting, you can tell that he’s a 54-year-old man who isn’t as well trained as some of the actions stars of today doing fight sequences. As such, they have to cut around a stunt double, and it takes away from the action.
Overall, Polar is a serviceable action movie that could have been something greater had the script been given more care, and maybe 20 minutes was taken off of the run time.