I would almost say that his new Amazon streaming series Too Old to Die Young plays like a parody of a bad Nicolas Winding Refn movie, except that the word “parody” might imply something funny about it. There’s nothing in any way entertaining here. This thing is just brutally boring.
Also, the phrase “bad Nicolas Winding Refn movie” is probably a redundancy.
When we sat down to watch the show’s first episode, I joked to my wife that she should expect long stretches of characters staring blankly off into the distance punctuated by brief bursts of gruesome violence. Sure enough, the episode opens with almost fifteen solid minutes of Miles Teller standing around, staring dead-eyed into the distance. The star of the show doesn’t even say a word of dialogue for almost ten minutes, until his sullen angst is interrupted when his partner is gunned down in front of him. Even then, he barely reacts, except to robotically shoot at the assailant and then slowly walk over to confirm that the partner is dead.
The rest of the episode isn’t much better. Teller plays Martin Jones, a dirty L.A. County sheriff’s deputy. The partner, who was only slightly more talkative, had just finished telling him that he might have to murder his mistress. Martin didn’t have any opinion about that one way or the other. However, he’s loyal enough to his friend to swipe his cell phone, which may contain all manner of incriminating evidence on it, before backup arrives. Conveniently, the partner was in the process of taking a selfie when he was shot and managed to snap a crystal clear photo of the killer sneaking up on him. Martin then uses this clue to guide him on a quest for revenge through the criminal underworld of the city.
The details of how it happens aren’t terribly important, but Martin winds up owing a favor to a crime lord and has to assassinate a loose end for him. This results in the crime lord owning him and demanding that he work for him from now on.
Also, to rub your nose in what a scumbag Martin is, it’s revealed that he has an underage girlfriend. The girl’s father (William Baldwin, looking more and more like a failed clone of his brother Alec these days) is impotent to do anything about the relationship, but condescends to Martin in a threatening manner. That character also has an annoying tic of snorting between every few words, and I’m genuinely not sure whether that’s a conscious acting choice or if Baldwin is actually suffering a respiratory problem.
Verdict / Grade: D
The show’s pilot episode runs 93 minutes and feels at least ten times that length. I swear, the negligible amount of plot could be cut down to a tight 20 minutes simply by removing the extended pauses between every line of dialogue. I’m sure that Refn’s defenders will argue that his pacing is meant to be hypnotic, but catatonic is a more accurate description.
The whole thing amounts to endless shots of Miles Teller standing silently, doing nothing, with no life at all behind his eyes. I don’t blame the actor, as that’s simply the director’s signature style, but I find it agonizing to watch.
The surround soundtrack is very well done, and the electronic score by Cliff Martinez is a fascinating collection of disquieting noises. I’ll give the show that much.
The full season runs ten episodes that average about 90 minutes each. I struggled to stay conscious and alert through the first one (Mrs. Z bailed halfway through) and can’t imagine suffering through any more of this garbage.