The more I discover new, innovative filmmakers, the less I care for Quentin Tarantino. Unquestionably I enjoy watching his movies, and like many people I first got into film via Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, but after noticing his overreliance on violence and his careless treatment of racial politics, I became far less keen. I bring this up because of the enormous influence he seems to have had on the current generation of filmmakers, for better or worse, such as David Leitch and Chad Stahelski. With Polar, Jonas Akerlund has proven himself as the most recent of the Tarantino followers, as well as perhaps the worst in recent years.
Based on the web comic of the same name, Polar follows the almost-retired assassin Duncan, who is being hunted down by the company he works for. Whilst resting in an isolated, snowy town, he comes across a young woman named Camille, to whom he becomes attached. Action ensues as Duncan must protect not only himself, but also his new and only friend. I was hoping that despite the negative reviews, this relationship might be interesting, but instead, the core of the film amounts to a cardboard character taking care of a female deuteragonist who is defined entirely by the abuse she has suffered through.
Whilst these scenes are shot with a deadly seriousness, Akerlund resorting to a shaky camera with copious amounts of brown and shadows, the remainder of the film is an obnoxious sensory overload. The neon colour palette, bright costumes, and use of onscreen text were initially promising, suggesting a campy film that might not take itself too seriously. However, once the first few gratuitous close-ups on the assassin Sindy’s chest and backside have come and gone, you begin to realise that this is a gross movie made to pander to teenage boys, rather than anything interesting or innovative.
The rather embarrassing script doesn’t help with any of this – a couple of the worst lines are the antagonist Blut calling Duncan a ‘fucky fuck’ and Camille referring to her brother as smelling ‘like little boy’. And whilst Vanessa Hudgens and Mads Mikkelsen both do a decent job with what they’re each given in the two main roles, Matt Lucas is brutally miscast as the creepy villainous Blut – even during torture sequences, you can’t muster any kind of fear of him. Every other character and performance is a cardboard cutout of an ‘edgy’ action stereotype, that the film spends far too much time on.
Don’t bother with Polar. Anyone contemplating watching it likely also has the entire Netflix range out in front of them, and I can guarantee that 95% of the other choices provided will allow for a better watch. Hopefully, all the negative responses signal that films like this are dying out, and if so, that will stand as Polar‘s main accomplishment.