REVIEWED: SEASON 1 (ALL EPISODES) | WHERE TO WATCH: AMAZON PRIME VIDEO
Serving notice with 2008’s Bronson, Nicolas Winding Refn broke into the public consciousness with Drive, which proved to be as much of a vehicle for the Danish director himself as it did for leading man Ryan Gosling. For his first onslaught into television, Refn opts to push the envelope even further, resulting in an unnerving experience that is relentless in its successful pursuit of both discomfort and disturbia.
Miles Teller portrays Martin, a cop from LA struggling with grief following the murder of his partner (said murder takes place within the first 5 minutes of episode 1 – it’s hard to feel sympathy given that the slain officer was killed while casually contemplating carrying out the execution of his overly clingy mistress), who finds himself acting as a vigilante of sorts for a supernatural underworld crime ring. Martin is ordered by the bad guys to take out the even badder guys – all while serving as a police officer by day. A particularly memorable scene involving a far-right motivational speech from his boss at the station makes a Trump rally look like Jackanory and will leave you wondering who the bad guys really are – not even a ukulele accompaniment can disguise the horrifying and jarring rhetoric.
Teller is a standout in the kind of heavy, disaffected role that has eluded his film career thus far. His scenes with fellow anti-crusader Viggo (John Hawkes) and unsuitable teenage love interest Janey (Nell Tiger Free) reveal hidden, understated depths and are compelling bright spots in what is often a bleary and uncomfortable ride.
The series makes the most of the freedom afforded to it by being hosted on Amazon; but while boundary-pushing nudity, violence, and unapologetic misogyny could be expected on a platform free from the restrictions of network television, there are times when it’s hard not to wish for the moments of decency that Broadcasting Standards would insist on. The score - courtesy of longtime Refn collaborator Cliff Martinez – does exactly what it’s supposed to; lures you in, makes you jump, and demands you keep watching. The inclusion of electro-pop ‘n’ punk staples Goldfrapp and Frankie Miller provide a welcome burst of energy into what can sometimes be an eerily still experience.
Make no mistake, Too Old to Die Young is the televisual embodiment of the monster that lurks under your bed. The supernatural series is gloomy but intense, dark yet somehow neon; peppered with flickering pinks and greens that do little to distract from the lump-in-throat trepidation that Refn invokes by forcing his audience on a slow, grinding journey littered with unsettling pit-stops that is to be endured rather than enjoyed.