An older retiring hitman finds out that his former employer really doesn’t want to pay his pension… Featuring Deadmau5.
Duncan “The Black Kaiser” Vizla (Mads Mikkelsen) is an elderly hitman famous for being among the best in the world. His former employer, Mr. Blut (Matt Lucas), decides that he doesn’t want to pay Duncan’s owed retirement pension and instead hires a group of killers (played by Ruby O. Fee, Josh Cruddas, Anthony Grant, Fei Ren, and Robert Maillet) to take him out. At the same time, Duncan is trying to mentor and befriend a young woman named Camille (Vanessa Hudgens), who gets caught in the crossfire.
So, a lot of the things in this movie, including the idea of an old killer being chased by younger ones, has been done to death before. It’s also been done better, to be honest, even with the recent film Killing Gunther. But, that doesn’t change the fact that this movie is exactly what it promises: A fun, violent, exploitation film. There’s gratuitous killing, ultraviolence, random nudity and sex, and more violence. It’s not as over-the-top and stylized as, say, Crank, but it’s definitely in the range of RED with Bruce Willis.
The characters are all very distinct, each with a clear comic-like color scheme and dialogue tendencies, similar to Dick Tracy villains. They’re mostly just archetypes, but the movie does, correctly, use that fact to avoid having to go through exposition about what they have done. We don’t get a ton of background on Duncan, but what we do get is mostly conveyed through short flashbacks that indicate his feelings about his career thus far. There’s also a lot of subtext in the scenes between him and the, admittedly greatly underused, Camille.
What’s craziest about this movie is that it’s ostensibly based on the webcomic Polar, a series famous for the fact that it had NO DIALOGUE. It was just a black, white, and red (really orange) series that was filled with gore and focused mainly on an assassin trying to kill a retired hitman in a frozen landscape. The creator Victor Santos has openly said that it was inspired in part by the film Le Samourai, a classic noir tale about a hitman whose employers decide to kill him. It’s this intent to convey through style more than dialogue that benefits the film, but, again, it’s been done better elsewhere.
The film’s sense of humor, too, doesn’t really set it apart from most modern films of this genre. It’s got a lot of funny moments, some that are genuinely hilarious, and scenes set to ironic songs, but none of them that really stand out. Ultimately, the thing in the movie that might most have distinguished it is the relationship between Mikkelsen and Hudgens, but that is actually minimized throughout the film in favor of showing us the actions of the new generation of killers.
So, if all of this stuff has been done better in other films, what did I think of it? I thought it was a fun 119 minutes. Yeah, it’s not deep and there are other movies that do this, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting. Mikkelsen’s performance is really great and the killing action scenes are still creative. The cinematography, too, is solid, emphasizing all of the sex and violence in the movie in just the right way for an exploitation film. The music is on point, with Deadmau5 score doing a lot of work setting the tone of the scenes. This movie isn’t going to change your life, nor is it the best popcorn film of this type, but it’s worth watching if you like cheesy movies like this. AND I DO.
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