Not only is Mads Mikkelsen smoother than a spillage on a marble floor at a whiskey factory, but he’s also just as lethal in Polar – a film based on an award-winning comic book. Beginning with a gang of assassins that look like a randomised band of Fornite skins, director Jonas Åkerlund casts that blindingly bright lens he set up in Spun from 2002, as we’re burdened with gratuitous shots of a bikini-bottomed arse before some other Jackass gets capped shortly after.
Cut then, to a grey and gruff-looking Mikkelsen as The Black Kaiser, the best hitman of them all, close to retirement from the company he works for, getting his own tush reviewed in the form of a routine check-up. His medical report file reads like a crime scene, and he looks rough as hell, nailing that worn down hero that’s somewhere between John Wick and The Punisher, and just as brutal as both. This is how Polar – however, clichéd it may be, should’ve started. Mads, as watchable as always, as the lone gunman, Duncan Vizla, feels like he’s in a completely different film and more in tune with the source material. Every shot he fills is one of murky greys and blacks resting in his cabin out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by stark landscapes doused in shadow, with only the occasional sprays of red when absolutely, necessary. Frank Miller-lite, almost.
Eventually, when the two tones of bright and barren collide, those that like their claret quota filled won’t be disappointed with Polar. Vizla now the target of the company he worked for (headed by Matt Lucas, no less) takes a licking and keeps on ticking off any that come for him. Mikkelsen’s portrayal brings a level of believability to the utter madness that unfolds, eviscerating all goons that try to have a go because they think they’re hard enough, he ensures that they’re grossly mistaken and does so brilliantly. The same can’t be said for the supporting cast though, that fail to meet the target the film’s lead so easily hits.
Matt Lucas as the films final boss is anything but. Missing the mark of the maniacal big bad using armed guards as human shields for our heroes, his loud-mouthed antagonist feels like an audition for The Penguin, more than anything. Any hopes for Vizla to face off against an equal are shot, with even the welcome appearance of Vikings star Kathryn Winnick wholly wasted as Lucas’ top gun that never gets used to her full potential.
The biggest surprise is Vanessa Hudgens as Vizla’s equally reclusive neighbour that befriends our hero. Fragile and always on edge, she’s a welcome addition to interact with our Vizla, owning scars of her own to counter the hitman’s humanity when he’s not operating like an unstoppable angel of death. This adds more to the favourable side of the story ensuring that Polar while occasionally struggling to keep its aim steady, still makes some great shots in the process.