Polar is based on the Dark Horse graphic novel, to which I was not aware of prior to hearing about this film, but the premise is that when assassins retire at the imposed age of 50, they retire permanently… because they’re forced to do so with a bullet or three in their insides. As we’re shown in the intro, Michael (Johnny Knoxville) is kinda enjoying retirement – until there’s a hit put out on him, but next up to jack it all in is Duncan Vizla (Mads Mikkelsen), aka The Black Kaiser.
However, before he does bow out, he’s given one last job, in Belarus. He’s being offered $2m for it by Vivian (Katheryn Winnick), but the big boss is Blut (Matt Lucas), and neither of them expect him to make it out alive…
Of course, if he does live to see a day of retirement, he’ll cash in on the $8m pension due to him, but… as Chris Tarrant would alight to on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, they don’t want to give him that!
So it doesn’t sound like the most original storyline in the world, but that’s not the be-all and end-all if you can make it into an exciting and engaging movie.
As you’d expect, Mads Mikkelsen is effortlessly cool as fuck, and like Zac Efron has done for a while, Vanessa Hudgens, as neighbour Camille, also gets to hang up her High School Musical goody-goody image by appearing alongside Mr M. In this, we see him training her in how to shoot a gun, but for whatever reason, she does seem a rather gentle flower. However, in time, we learn the exact reason why she would quite like to have a gun and the reason for which she would exact revenge on a particular person.
There’s a great stack of murders in flashback scenes which have been carried out by Duncan, which just makes me want to go back and play more Hitman 2! However, there’s always one particular hit which he just can’t get out of his head.
Elsewhere, it’s incredibly grim when he starts drilling into one man’s head, while all his hitmen and women colleagues at Damocles look like a Generation X pop group out on tour, although Lucas does look a bit like a low-rent Blofeld. On the plus side for a co-star, it’s nice to see Richard Dreyfuss popping up in a cameo as an old friend of Duncan’s, Porter. Just a shame he wasn’t in it for longer.
The second half is better than the first, as that’s where most of the action takes place as Duncan battles to survive, whilst too much of the first half is Blut’s Scooby Doo gang trying to track him down, which isn’t quite as effective, even if they do blast seven bells out of one incredibly obese individual.
The film also has the kind of twist that some may see coming, but I check my brain at the door for this particular film so I had no idea how things would turn out.
Polar also sets itself up for a sequel and, despite the harsh response from some critics, I do hope we get a further installment. It’s NOT John Wick, but it IS just as good in its own way, and a cracking piece of entertainment of that.
Finally, it also has bizarre end credits which scroll down the screen rather than up. I’ve seen that once before in a film that I remember – 1999’s Se7en. Apparently, to date, there’s a total of 17 movies (including short films) which have done this, also including Nicolas Cage’s 2007 movie Next, which was great entertainment. I don’t remember those credits, offhand, though.
Polar is out now on Netflix.
Running time: 118 minutes
Format: 2.00:1 (Panasonic Varicam Pure 4K)
Released: January 25th 2019
Director: Jonas Åkerlund
Producers: Jeremy Bolt, Hartley Gorenstein, Robert Kulzer
Screenplay: Jayson Rothwell
Dark Horse graphic novel – Polar: Came From The Cold: Víctor Santos
Duncan Vizla: Mads Mikkelsen
Camille: Vanessa Hudgens
Vivian: Katheryn Winnick
Hilde: Fei Ren
Sindy: Ruby O Fee
Blut: Matt Lucas
Karl: Robert Maillet
Facundo: Anthony Grant
Alexei: Josh Cruddas
Junkie Jane: Lovina Yavari
Jazmin: Ayisha Issa
Pedro: Pedro Miguel
Evalina: Anastasia Marinina
Evalina’s Son: Martin Zolotarev
Porter: Richard Dreyfuss
Regina: Inga Cadranel
Doris: Jill Frappier
Ginny: Nia Roam
Lomas: Julian Richings
Michael Green: Johnny Knoxville
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.