Released in early January as a Netflix Original Film (based on the graphic novel of the same name), Polar (2019) stars Mads Mikkelsen as Duncan Vizla, codename “The Black Kaiser”, one of the most ruthless and successful assassins in the Damocles Company. He’s approaching 50 and retirement, and his assassin’s guild has “matched his 401k”. He stands to walk away with 8 million dollars, but he fine print of his contract dictates that should he die before retirement, all of the money owed to him would be returned to Damocles.
Vizla moves to a remote town in Montana, and befriends his shy neighbor (Vanessa Hudgens), but his peaceful life is ruined when his former colleagues come to collect the bounty on his head set by his former employer.
10. JOHN WICK
When reading the Netflix synopsis of Polar, the concept of an aging hitman being forced back into the life he left behind may immediately remind you of John Wick . Both have austere, protagonists (Mads Mikkelsen and Keanu Reeves are minimalist actors who can do a lot with a single expression), stunning mid-movie action sequences, and plenty of headshots.
Where John Wick differs is the actual impetus for his return to the life of an elite assassin; a petulant crime boss’s son kills a puppy that was a gift from Wick’s late wife. The rest is a remorseless hunt for them by a man feared by even his fellow assassins.
9. SMOKIN’ ACES
With its cadre of colorful characters, blazing gunplay, and corny dialogue, Smokin’ Aces is a hallmark of the hitman genre. Sporting a cast that included musicians (Alicia Keys, Common) and Hollywood heavy hitters (Ben Affleck, Ryan Reynolds), it hit all the major marks for zany and action-packed entertainment.
It centered on Buddy “Aces” Israel (Jeremy Piven), a gangster-wannabe who’s hiding out in Lake Tahoe with his entourage. He’s about to roll over on some high profile mob friends to the FBI, when a one million dollar hit is put on his head and a wide variety of assassins (similar to the over-the-top characters in Polar) come to collect.
8. SHOOT ‘EM UP
Inspired by the action films of legendary Chinese filmmaker John Woo, Shoot ‘Em Up is a violent thriller centered around a disgruntled drifter (Clive Owen) who rescues a newborn from being at the business end of a hit by an infamous assassin (Paul Giamatti).
With the help of a call girl (Monica Bellucci), he must keep the baby safe while he attempts to figure out why it must be killed. The film’s premise is as ridiculous as its over-the-top action sequences (Owen at one point stabs a hitman in the face with a carrot), but it’s an enjoyable ride.
7. HOTEL ARTEMIS
When two brothers turned bank robbers get wounded during a heist, they have nowhere to go but the Hotel Artemis, a secret hospital for criminals run by The Nurse (Jodie Foster). When one of the brothers, Sherman (Sterling K. Brown) finds out he’s stolen something incredibly valuable from the “Wolf King of Los Angeles” (Jeff Goldblum), they attempt a way to escape before his goons find them.
RELATED: Polar Movie Cast & Character Guide
Hotel Artemis does a good attempt at world-building vis-a-vis John Wick and Polar (there are similar hospitals, with membership, all over the world), and even works in a dystopian angle (water privatization has caused riots in 2028 Los Angeles).
6. SUICIDE SQUAD
The enemies of your enemies are your friends in Suicide Squad , a technicolor explosion of candy-coated supervillains, weapons, and set pieces. When an enigmatic supervillain known as Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) threatens to unleash the equivalent of Pandora’s Box on the world and enslave humanity, it’s up to a misfit crew of hitmen, thugs, assassins, and petty criminals to stop her.
Led by Deadshot (Will Smith), the crew has certain all-stars from DC Comics, including Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), and The Joker (Jared Leto), tying it to the DCEU in a far campier way than DC’s more somber titles.
A fast-paced, frenetic look at bounty hunting, Domino was based on the true story of Domino Harvey, who was arrested on criminal charges of stealing 10 million dollars from an armored truck. Keira Knightley's Domino went from being a down-on-her-luck model kicked out of college in Los Angeles, to running with a hardcore crew including Mickey Rourke and Edgar Ramirez.
Domino’s story is told in flashback sequences to agent Taryn Mills (Lucy Liu), and while certain creative license is taken with the material, it’s an intriguing look inside a world not seen by most. It’s highly stylized aesthetic makes Domino’s reality both horrible and romanticized.
In the same vein as other Guy Ritchie films, Snatch is a rollicking romp into London’s criminal underworld with its own distinct visual style and flair. Like Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and RocknRolla, it has colorful characters unique to the city, with motivations as different as their dialects.
A boxing promoter (Jason Statham) is under the boot of a ruthless gangster, while trying to make Mickey “Once Punch” O’Neil (Brad Pitt) a fighting champ. Soon bounty hunters, assassins, thugs, and thieves all searching for an 86-carat diamond show up at the matches and all hell breaks loose.
3. THE EQUALIZER
Though he appears to be a kindly manager at a Home Mart hardware store, Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) has a past life he’s trying to leave behind. After he befriends a teenager working for the Russian Mob at a local 24/7 diner, she’s brutally beaten, and McCall is forced to use the skills from his past to track down her assailants, including the Mob itself.
Like Polar and John Wick, The Equalizer (2014) features a man retired from violence (the Defense Intelligence Agency), who is called upon to do what’s right in the face of impossible odds.
2. ATOMIC BLONDE
In the waning days of the Berlin Wall, an MI6 agent is shot while carrying The List, a collection of the names of all the operatives working as double agents active in Berlin. Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron), the best operative MI6 has, is brought in to recover the microfilm at all costs, employing her incredible hand-to-hand combat skills as well as her deadly marksmanship.
1. THE ACCOUNTANT
In The Accountant, a mild-mannered tax professional by day, Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) lives a double life as a forensic accountant who reveals insider financial deceptions for big time criminal enterprises. He gets his orders via phone from the mysterious “Voice”, and his call-sign is “Dreamboat”. Born with high-functioning autism, he has a gift for integers, patterns, and as it turns out, guns.
Caught in the cross-hairs of both government operatives (J.K. Simmons) and hired hitmen (Jon Bernthal) trying to discover his true identity, he has to rely on his martial arts training, superior marksmanship, and quick thinking, especially when a young woman (Anna Kendrick) inadvertently finds out who he is.