Neon Soaked Neo-Noir Lives On
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
In the modern world of filmmaking there seems to be fewer and fewer auteur directors. Directors who engross themselves in the creative process adding and working nearly every section of production in one capacity or another to lend their personal signature and style to it. In the past directors such as Hitchock, De Palma, Kubrick and Scorese were hailed for this. But similar to the corporate takeover of Hollywood in the mid 70’s modern film and TV feels too constrained to corporate motives and profit-only creators.
There are of course some exceptions in the modern age, the most notable being Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino and Denis Villeneuve. The one many do not think of but has slowly become the most iconic underground auteur, praised endlessly by critics and film academies around the world is Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn. Refn boomed into relevance with his 2011 adaptation of the neo-noir novel “Drive” starring Ryan Gosling. The visceral neon color palette, grindhouse inspired violence and infectious music choices made him a director to watch. His past two films 2013’s “Only God Forgives” and 2016’s “The Neon Demon” were critically praised but polarizing for audiences.
In the age of streaming Refn decided for his next film to pair up with comic book royalty, writer Ed Brubaker to create what he called a 13 hour film for Amazon Prime: “Too Old To Die Young.” Like his past works, “Too Old To Die Young” features the strong neon colour palette, grindhouse violence and strong music but this time adds something Refn was unable to have in the past with the limited runtime of films, time.The show is very slow paced with long tracking and establishing shots to truly allow the viewer to soak in the visuals and mood.
The story follows police officer Martin after his partner’s murder weaving a web of corruption, deciet, and all the other noir hallmarks in modern day Los Angeles and Northern Mexico. The less said the better as the story has many twists and turns, as is a hallmark of Brubaker’s hard boiled crime writings in the past. The show is unique like “Inglourious Basterds” where people speak their native languages only and subtitles are used for non-English. As a result when characters go to Mexico, three whole episodes are almost entirely in Spanish to maintain realism.
The only detractions keeping this show from being a masterpiece is what could also be argued what makes it so special. That being the length, each episode is an hour and a half long and so detail oriented it requires full attention to keep up with the story and developments, thus the show is not bingeable which may be a positive for some. But being released all at once makes it appear as if it should be binged which it really isn’t conducive to. The other is the mature adult themes. Due to the benefit of streaming, there is no rating system in place for content and “Too Old To Die Young” takes full advantage of this. There is definitely NC-17 content in this show but for those who enjoy more adult TV and can handle some gruesome violence, this show will deliver.