#byNWR: Too Old to Die Young - Episode 10: The World

As if the journey down Danish writer-director Nicolas Winding Refn’s wild and unpredictable rabbit hole tinged with intoxicating surrealism spiced with bouts of extreme violence couldn’t get any more unusual, Refn offers up one final surprise by doing the opposite of the clich├ęd ‘series finale’.  Whereas the last episode tends to be a sprawling and eventful two-hour+ endeavor with many momentous developments saved for the last, Episode 10: The World of the Amazon Studios’ produced Los Angeles crime saga Too Old to Die Young runs a mere thirty minutes and plays like a bonus epilogue rather than a tidy resolution while also bringing the mayhem unleashed in the filmmaker’s television series back together full circle in its own quiet manner.  

Following up one last time with Diana (Jena Malone) opening the title credits on her psychic/godmother (how do I put this modestly) pleasuring herself donning VR goggles before breaking into a full dance number set to Goldfrapp’s Ooh La La.  But not before she delivers an extended monologue summing up the viewer’s collective feelings about the injustices having taken place on the show as well as timely lamenting our country’s current modern political climate.  Think of the political commentary peppered throughout Andrew Dominik’s Killing Them Softly handled deftly rather than obviously.  As abruptly as we’re briefly dropped into Diana’s hemisphere, we’re taken back out for one final open-ended farewell from the show’s obvious heroine, Yaritza (Cristina Rodlo) which achieves that rare balance of ending in near silence as well as a noisy bang.

Playing like an extended standalone coda to the events of the series, Too Old to Die Young much like the often compared to Twin Peaks: The Return deliberately ends unresolved with a glimmer of hope while declaring the show could go anywhere and everywhere at this stage of the game.  At the end of an elongated, hard and brutal odyssey, alas Too Old to Die Young as it stands is a remarkably dense and uncompromising cinematic achievement made possible through the advent (and upper hand I should add) of the small screen versus the theater screen.  Though Refn did present two of the episodes theatrically at the Cannes Film Festival, Too Old to Die Young could not exist anywhere but in the long form television medium. 

This was not the easiest adventure for this seasoned Refn fan to embark on, less for the show’s still shocking and even outlandish turns than the amount of time spent wallowing deep inside Refn’s netherworld of his and co-writer Ed Brubaker’s creating.  There are scenes of pure cinema which play like their own abstractions, transitions which tread a fine line between artistic breakthrough and self-indulgence, and above all a complete and utter disregard for an audience.  In other words, if Too Old to Die Young is too violent, weird and drawn out for you, tough shit.   That much of the odyssey is so loosely tethered and the provocations do manage to burrow and even disturb, those who are willing to stick around and dive further within are only going to emerge scathed with cuts and bruises.

And yet, however, with all of that said, Too Old to Die Young compared to numerous other films and television programs that have come and gone so far this year has managed to elicit the biggest emotional reaction from me and easily left the strongest of unshakable impressions on me.  Having followed this writer-director for years, I was ready and I wasn’t.  I knew the terrain but did not know just far this was gonna go.  That Refn was given the opportunity to make something of this magnitude with this much experimentation while exploring more deeply many themes that have been kicking around in his prior works for years is a cause for celebration! 

Make no mistake, Too Old to Die Young is really not for everyone.  It is hypnotically horrific, unconcerned for whatever viewership it acquires and finally ends on something of an incongruent note.  That said, soon as it was over with, all I could think about was taking the psychedelic and wild roller coaster ride all over again! 

- Andrew Kotwicki