‘polar’ Review: A Hit Man’s Redemption Gets Mired In Toxic, Wintry Sludge
If “Polar” were a teenager, it might be content to chug Mountain Dew while playing first-person shooter games and trolling innocents online. Unfortunately, “Polar” is a movie, and if it has any redeeming qualities, it chooses to keep them a secret.
A particularly toxic brew of glibness and graphic violence, this Netflix throwaway, directed by the music video maestro Jonas Akerlund, stars the usually trustworthy Mads Mikkelsen as a notorious hit man, the Black Kaiser, who decides he is ready to retire and ruminate on his sins. His boss (a preening Matt Lucas) has other ideas. He sends a team of hot, hip young assassins to take down the Kaiser in his wintry Montana hide-out (and to torture as many people as they can along the way).
“Polar” actually contains one interesting idea: The Kaiser is a wanted man not because of anything he did but because his employer wants to seize his lucrative pension. Yes, the assassination corporation for which the Kaiser works has a pension plan. If it weren’t so busy slathering sadism, garish color schemes and played-out rapid-fire editing on the screen, “Polar” might make for a decent satire of corporate America.
Based on a web comic apparently popular enough to become a Netflix movie, “Polar” pales in comparison to other assassin-in-midlife-crisis movies like “Grosse Pointe Blank” (with John Cusack) and “Panic” (William H. Macy). Like both of those films, “Polar” throws a noble young woman into the mix: A grunged-out Vanessa Hudgens plays the vehicle for the Kaiser’s potential salvation. She is the centerpiece of an adequate final-act twist, but by then the damage has been done and overdone.