In 2019, Amazon released a bizarre, beautiful, and mostly overlooked 10 episode dramatic series entitled Too Old To Die Young, created by Danish art house director Nicholas Winding Refn and Ed Brubaker, an accomplished writer of hardboiled crime comics.
Miles Teller as Martin in TOO OLD TO DIE YOUNG
In films like Bronson, Drive, Only God Forgives, and Neon Demon, Refn takes pulpy commercial storylines and decompresses them, unfolding them like Tarot card spreads, seeking an eerie transcendental resonance in the shadows his night people do crimes and hide and die in. His work in general has an urban sunset ambience that is strangely sexy and always vaguely apocalyptic.
In Too Old To Die Young, the apocalypse is not so vague. The particular underworld explored here is a gorgeously photographed moral vacuum. Miles Teller plays Martin, a deeply corrupt LA cop who’s living always just a few steps ahead of the consequences of his atrocities. His journey through hell takes us from street vendettas to the narcissistic corruption of wealthy degenerates, from Mexican blood feuds to the webs of righteous assassination woven by Diana (Jena Malone), a witchy victim advocate who can see into horrible futures.
Jena Malone as Diane in TOO OLD TO DIE YOUNG
The plot convolutions thus described might seem to suggest a frenetic, hyperkinetic assault on the senses. But Too Old To Die Young achieves its unique beauty (and loses some of its audience, perhaps) by taking things very…very…slowly. The silences and stillnesses between beats of dialogue, between movements of any kind, might seem at first to be pretentiously abstract, but once you adjust to these eccentric rhythms, it feels like the show is inviting us to ponder its abyss aesthetically.
Cristina Rodio and Augusto Aguilera as Yaritza and Jesus in TOO OLD TO DIE YOUNG
Even viewers who can handle its extremes might be infuriated by its unconventional approach to the crime drama, but you may never experience such a subtle and sophisticated conjuration of a world that is ending. All the characters seem to intuit an impending collapse of every societal structure, moral order, and ethical code. Each of them (Martin especially) feels the siren song of oblivion in their blood. It doesn’t matter what you do in a world that’s dead already. It begins with a crime and pulls back to reveal a world where crime is all there is.
Too Old To Die Young is worth another look. Its first audience didn’t know quite what to expect, because there’s nothing quite like it. It will not provide consolation in these turbulent times, but its sleek bleakness has an honesty to it. If a world is ending, it won’t feel like the culmination of anything. It will feel like fragmentation. Not everyone’s favorite feeling, but it’s a taste you acquire as you watch this series, because the ruins are so very sexy.
About The Author:
Jason M. Lucia is a media critic, columnist, and professional ghostwriter whose work has been published under several pseudonyms. He was raised in Medford, MA. He went to school in NY. He lives to rhapsodize the stories he loves on the page and in the flesh.
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