TOO OLD TO DIE YOUNG is the latest Amazon series brought to us from director Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive, The Neon Demon). The series stars Miles Teller (Whiplash), William Baldwin (The Squid and the Whale), John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone), Jena Malone (The Neon Demon), Augusto Aguilera (Snowfall), Nell Tiger Free (Game of Thrones), Babs Olusanmokun (Black Mirror), Hart Bochner (Die Hard), Celestino Cornielle (The Fate of the Furious) and Cristina Rodlo (Miss Bala). At the time of review, we were only given episodes 4 and 5 to watch, which makes it a tad difficult to review a show when you aren’t sure how it started, but alas, I’ll do the best that I can with the information I was given. To best give you an idea of what the series is about, I’ll use the official synopsis below from Amazon:
As the lives of a young police officer and the heir to a Mexican drug cartel collide, their parallel journeys through the criminal underbelly of Los Angeles guarantee a catastrophic confrontation. Martin (Miles Teller), a cop on a career fast-track, and Jesus (August Aguilera), a budding drug kingpin, are both operating on the seedier side of the San Fernando Valley when a violent act of revenge ties their fates together inextricably. Under the tutelage of ex-FBI agent turned vigilante Viggo (John Hawkes), Martin attempts to atone for his role in the death of a fellow officer by assassinating the most depraved criminals he can find, while Jesus steps up to lead the Los Angeles branch of his family’s crime empire, as inevitable tragedy envelops them both.
In Refn fashion, the series is washed in bright neon colors and pulsating music which offsets the disturbing and rather upsetting themes at hand. This is not an easy show to watch and there were many moments where I found myself looking away from the screen due to the intensity of certain scenes. I find it incredibly important to give a trigger warning to those interested in watching TOO OLD TO DIE YOUNG – as it depicts scenes of rape, intense violence, sexual assault, and more. All that said, even though it was hard to watch at times, TOO OLD TO DIE YOUNG is a visual feast encompassed by terrific performances, most notably by Miles Teller, and cinematography that is as breathtaking as it is beautiful. If you can get past the feelings of disgust towards almost every character than I think you’ll be able to enjoy what Refn has created. In Episode 4: The Tower we are thrown into Martin’s life as he attends a PTSD meeting, sitting stoically while listening to others speak about their experience, only to then get the chance to release his demons after meeting Viggo (John Hawkes). In Episode 5: The Fool, we see Martin seek out vengeance against two brothers who make pornography in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This episode alone is quite astounding and could easily have been a stand-alone movie with just a few tweaks to the narrative.
There’s a beauty to Refn’s directing which is on full display in this series. Besides filming in chronological order, Refn also includes moments of long takes that for some may seem out of place due to the intensity of the show. I, for one, enjoyed those moments of reprieve and the simple beauty that they exuded, so I must applaud the work of cinematographer Darius Khondji for executing them so well. Aside from the brilliant directing, cinematography, and music, by accomplished composer Cliff Martinez (who Refn has used repeatedly), the other standout was that of Miles Teller’s performance as Martin. Decked out in either a suit or a grey sweatshirt, Martin doesn’t speak often but his eyes tell of a troubled life filled with secrets and violence. From what I can tell in these two episodes he doesn’t have much remorse for the killing he does, whether that’s because he feels they are justifiable or because they are an excuse to make peace with his past, very little emotes from him. Even while doing his job as a cop, whether that be listening to his sergeant and the squad chanting fascist remarks or walking through a ridiculously bloody crime scene, nothing seems to faze him and to be honest, his coolness is quite terrifying.
Even though the two episodes I watched left me feeling rattled, I’m still very much interested in watching the entire series, from the beginning. I am interested to hear what other people think of the show once it airs as I have a feeling it will be very polarizing. TOO OLD TO DIE YOUNG shows us the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles, reminding us that this city isn’t all about the glitz and glam and Hollywood starlets, it’s about the terrifying things that go unseen and the horrors that humans are capable of committing. I will admit there was a moment in which I found myself laughing while during a car chase scene with Barry Manilow’s “Mandy” playing in the background. However, that said, no amount of neon lights or pulsating music can wipe away the stains of violent actions, no matter how justifiable they may seem. TOO OLD TO DIE YOUNG is a 10 episode series premiering on Amazon Video June 14, 2019.
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