When in doubt, my default movie genre pick is action… particularly when other people are involved. So, Tuesday night with boyfriend in tow, Netflix’s new action film, Polar, was a standout among my queue and from all signs seemed like a promising tale of an assassin seeking redemption. What a sad mistake.
The action thriller is based on a popular webcomic and features a selection of powerhouse actors like Mads Mikkelsen and Vanessa Hudgens. When renowned assassin Duncan Vizla (Mikkelsen) decides to settle into retirement, his former boss opts to cut his life short instead of making an impressive 401k payout. In a battle of blood (not wits), Mikkelsen shoots, stabs, and even nail guns (ugh) his way through the would-be killers… Until scheming, slimy and extremely well-lotioned Mr. Blunt, played by Matt Lucas, steals away Mikkelsen sweet and extremely jumpy neighbor, Camille (Hudgens). The only thing that stands between Mikkelsen and a proper peaceful retirement is Blunt’s many henchmen and thousands of bullets. Let the bloodbath begin.
And what a bloodbath it is. On the surface, Polar is everything a teenage boy dreams of watching in an action film: unhinged gore, bouncing butts, and kill after kill. While there’s plenty of opportunities to dive deeper into the psyche of Mikkelsen, Hudgens, and their generally uncomfortable relationship, the film opts to kill oodles of people in new, cringy ways. You can’t look away as Mikkelsen gamely slugs through each action sequence with a dogged determination, but in the end, I found myself anxiously waiting for each death because it brought us closer to the ending credits. Each death is more lurid than the last and while it’s semi-satisfying to watch Mikkelsen knock down bad guys like dominos, I think most viewers recognize the plot line for a violent sensory overload and gore for the sake of gore.