Polar Rescue - Blu-ray Review

Michael Scott

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Apr 4, 2017
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Polar Rescue

Movie: :2.5stars:
Video: :4.5stars:
Audio: :4.5stars:
Extras: :halfstar:
Final Score: :3stars:

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Growing up in a family of athletes and martial artists, Kung Fu stars like Donnie Yen, Jackie Chan and Jet Li were all apart of my formative years. The man was a Hong Kong legend, gaining nearly as much market share in the U.S. as Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee, but still staying true to his Hong Kong roots by pumping out a literal metric ton of action and drama films over the last 40 years. However, the last 15 years or so Yen has been pumping out “content” rather than amazing films. I remember the day when seeing Donnie Yen’s name on the front cover of a film meant you HAD to check it out. Films like Sha Po Lang, or Ip Man or even his American films like Rogue One or xXx: Return of Xander Cage put butts in theaters. Now, it’s a worrisome venture wondering if you’re going to waste your time, or whether he’s used as the token martial arts veteran like he was in John Wick 4.

I’m going to go a bit off base here, but after watching the man’s career for over 30 years, his “downfall” came about the same time that Mainland China took back Hong Kong under it’s legal wing, and basically turned everything that the small independent Asian city state did and homogenized it into Mainland Chinese propaganda. Even though it was basically Chinese productions, Hong Kong stood apart from Mainland Chinese films in that they were always very creative, very adaptive, and never fell in line with the jingoistic “state friendly” Mainland films. Once Hong Kong was reabsorbed into the Peoples Republic of China that creativity went away, and with it, all of the directors and (freedom) that Hong Kong was once known for. The end result, films like Polar Rescue (originally titled Come Back to Me back in 2022) which feel like an overly safe, overly dramatized, and overly sanitized production that is about as cardboard flat as you can get.

The film is basically your average “father loses son and does whatever it takes to get him back” movie, just with the overly sanitized and two dimensionality that is so typical of mainland Chinese films. Donnie Yen is De, a disgruntled father who, in a fit of frustration, leaves his son Lele behind in a shack after a temper tantrum to teach the young child a lesson. Driving his wife and daughter to the hotel, he comes back for Lele hoping the 8 year old would have been scared into shape, only to find that Lele is flat up GONE. Desperately trying to find his child, De enlists the help of the local police and rescue in finding his son, only to watch as the men around him seem to be less interested in finding the boy than he does. What unfolds next is a tale of absolute will and focus, as De pushes forward against all hope in desperation of finding his boy before he succumbs to hypothermia in the winter snow.

Polar Express is unfortunately what I call the very example of a two dimensional film. The story goes on for far too long with too little actual emotional attachment, despite the film pushing a heavy handed and syrupy emotional pull. But sadly instead of actual human emotion, everything feels like an over the top broadway production, with long monologues of pushing on, fake tears streaming down peoples face, and an overly complex back story to why they got to where they are. And to put it bluntly, it feels scrubbed and sanitized to the very max, as if it was doused in acting bleach to make nothing hit home, even though the director and writer are absolutely trying their best to tug at their heart strings.


Not Rated by the MPAA

Video: :4.5stars:
Polar Rescue comes to Blu-ray with a fantastic looking digitally shot image that sparkles in 1080p. The flick is shot with a decidedly neutral and crisp looking digital imagery, with standout whites and blues for the most part, and absolutely CRISP as can be. Everything almost looks fake because it is that photo realistic at times. However, there are a few weird CGI artifacts throughout the film (such as the avalanche falling and Donnie’s face when he’s drifting under the ice near the end), but overall this is a razor sharp image with amazing colors, fantastic details that let you see every crease, line and pore on the actors faces, AND no sign of major banding that is usually par for the course with Well Go USA releases.

Audio: :4.5stars:
The Mandarin 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is just as great as the video is, with a strong sense of immersion in the outdoors drama. There’s plenty of dialog forward bits in the film that keep the sound in the front of the room, but there is also a TON of surround activity as De and the rest of the police force head off into the wilderness to search for Lele. The roaring of the avalanche absolutely devastates the room as it crashes down on top of the listening position, or the rushing of the river as De dives in to rescue what he thinks is his son. While the movie as good bass it’s not absolutely crazy most of the time, but there are a few standout moments that really make you stand up and pay attention, especially the ice cracking in the final moments of the movie as De finds Lele (seriously, that ice creaking and cracking was probably the single best audio section of the entire film).

Extras: :halfstar:
• Trailer
• Well Go USA Previews

Final Score: :3stars:

Polar Rescue is a bit of a bland drama with what I call “late stage Donnie Yen”. The 60 year old actor looks fantastic (and nowhere near 60), but his last few years of films have all been family films and period piece dramas that have nowhere near the heart and soul of his 80s, 90s and early 2000s works. I’m not sure whether he’s just looking to keep working, or whether he’s got contractual obligations, but the end result is that most of his recent works have been frustratingly sub par, with Polar Rescue being no exception. The Blu-ray looks and sounds rather good, but the limited extras and rather “meh” plot leaves me recommending this as a rental at best.

Technical Specifications:

Starring: Donnie Yen, Cecilia Han, Bing Jia, Xu Tang
Directed by: Chi-Leung Law
Written by: Chi-Leung Law
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: Mandarin: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Mandarin DD 2.0
Subtitles: English
Studio: Well Go USA
Rated: NR
Runtime: 102 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: March 26th, 2024

Recommendation: Meh

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