The humble graphic novel has paved the way for many of the iconic movies we know and love today: Watchmen, Scott Pilgrim vs The World and 300 to name but a few. Netflix’s latest release is a foray into that elusive world of the graphic novel, bringing gory hitman tale Polar to our TV screens. However, did it translate on screen as it did on paper?
Polar follows world-renowned assassin Duncan (Mads Mikkelsen) as he prepares for his retirement at the age of 50. Against his will, Duncan is forced back into his killing ways when he is pursued by a group of people who want him dead.
First things first: do not watch this movie if you are of a sensitive disposition. The amount of fake blood that this crew must have gone through is gargantuan, let alone the number of hours the actors must have spent in the make-up chair. Bullet wounds, knife wounds and a decapitated head are just a sample of the delights that await the viewer when they click play on this gorefest.
It’s not just blood that makes this film distasteful. Before you watch this movie, it is worth knowing that it features four separate shots of a corpse’s erection. Within the first ten minutes of the movie. Immediately, this sets the tone: immature, vile and just a little bit gaudy.
If Polar wasn’t so gore-centric, it might have been easier for the writer and director to realise that there was quite a lot wrong with it. Other than a lot of violence, this movie hasn’t got a lot going for it. It’s disjointed, repetitive and just plain strange. It’s as though the editor of Suicide Squad was given a smaller budget, but was told to replicate the aesthetic. It makes the movie seem like it’s not taking itself seriously, but not in a good way.
As far as the acting goes, it’s mediocre. Mikkelsen is cold, detached and calculating. He is the epitome of an assassin, but he seems out of place in this, otherwise, lacklustre movie. The only good thing that might have come out of this for him is, hopefully, a hefty paycheck.
Most other performances serve only one purpose: to await their death at the hands of Duncan’s vitriolic rage. Matt Lucas, who plays Duncan’s boss, is unsettlingly creepy, in a way that only strange men at the bus stop can replicate. His weird, surprisingly arrogant character Blut is a far cry from his usual characters, and it’s obvious why he rarely plays parts like this. It’s because they do not suit him at all.
As far as the group of assassins who are after Duncan, they’re all predictable. They each slot into their allocated talent perfectly, and do not stray from it at all throughout the movie. It’s frustrating to watch the group of ner-do-wells slowly make their way around America in the most repetitive chase in an action movie ever. With each stop, they murder another person, who always looks as though they have been randomly generated on Sims.
Vanessa Hudgens, however, is the arguably saving grace. She delivers a poignant and sensitive performance, and the processing of her traumatic past throughout the movie is one of the more interesting plot points. Granted, she looks rough, but her performance is far from that.
What is frustrating about this movie is that it has the potential to be really clever. The actual overarching plot is a brilliant idea, but it gets lost behind the bombardment of non-sensical violence and murder. Literally, instead of being an adaptation of a graphic novel, it becomes a glorified slasher flick, with the characters solving all problems with a bullet.
With Polar in particular, it is so easy to see where the good is. It is so easy to understand what could have been changed, taken out, reshot, in order to make this movie something decent. Instead, it’s as though director, Jonas Åkerlund, has looked at it and thought, ‘that’ll do.’
If you have a spare two hours this weekend, and fancy watching a blood-drenched, badly executed, yet randomly sensitive movie, Polar is probably the one for you. Just make sure that you don’t expect much from it.