(Germany/US - 2019)
Directed by Jonas Akerlund. Written by Jayson Rothwell. Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Vanessa Hudgens, Katheryn Winnick, Matt Lucas, Richard Dreyfuss, Johnny Knoxville, Ruby O. Fee, Fei Ren, Anthony Grant, Josh Cruddas, Robert Maillet, Julian Richings, Lovina Yavari, Ayisha Issa, Anastasia Marinina, Pedro Miguel Arce, Ken Hall. (Unrated, 118 mins)
Based on Victor Santos' Dark Horse graphic novel Polar: Came in From the Cold, the Netflix Original POLAR is garish, grotesque, highly-stylized, and absurdly over-the-top, which is pretty much the methodology of veteran music video director and occasional filmmaker Jonas Akerlund. Best known for his work with a variety of artists including Roxette, Madonna, Prodigy (he directed the video for their controversial hit "Smack My Bitch Up"), U2, Maroon 5, Beyonce, the Rolling Stones, Rammstein, Metallica, and Taylor Swift among many others, Akerlund has sporadically dabbled in film going back to 2003's meth addiction black comedy SPUN. POLAR is the first of two movies he has coming out in early 2019--the long-delayed Norwegian black metal saga LORDS OF CHAOS is due out in February but was shot back in 2016. Akerlund's approach to POLAR is to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. Some of it does, but it generally feels like an even more cartoonish JOHN WICK fused with elements of PUNISHER: WAR ZONE, and John Waters. It's the kind of film where nearly every scene ends with someone getting their brains blown out. It's the kind of film where a guy gets shot in the balls with a nail gun and then takes a drill to the head. It's the kind of film where the corpulent, cackling villain has a skin condition that requires repeated shots of him being slathered with thick, gooey lotion. It's the kind of film where a farting 500 lb guy is tortured and then shot to pieces, with wet, chunky bits of flesh and fat splattering all over the room and everyone in it, accompanied, for some reason, by the 1983 Kenny Rogers/Dolly Parton hit "Islands in the Stream."
SMALL APARTMENTS, dials it up to 11 as the world's least convincing megalomaniacal black ops mastermind, whether he's haplessly shouting "Guards!" when there aren't any around or standing helplessly as Vizla storms his compound and his security team says peace out and just leaves him on his own. But Akerlund also doesn't know when enough is enough. Watching Lucas squirt lotion and slather it all over himself isn't funny once, let alone ten times, and Akerlund spends entirely too much time with the obnoxious antics of the grating team of assassins sent to kill Vizla. At just under two hours, POLAR is bloated and overlong, and its go-for-broke attitude eventually grows exhausting. Akerlund even has the balls to re-stage the OLDBOY hallway scene, already several years past its sell-by date when REPO MEN did it nearly ten years ago, this time utilizing the editing skills of the dubious Doobie White, last seen hyper-cutting the most recent RESIDENT EVIL outing into headache-inducing incoherence.