6/10. Slow moving but mysteriously captivating. Too Old to Die Young might not be for everyone, but for fans of dark crime drama, this could be your cup of tea.
Before we continue any further, let us preface that this is a review on just episodes 4 through to 8 and not from the entire 12 featured in the season. We did so based on the recommendation from one of our favourite film critics, YouTuber YMS, and we’re glad we did because if we thought these episodes were slow, YMS warned us that it’s worse in the others.
If you’d like to see him explain more on why it’s only worth watching these episodes click here. Almost 90% of his recommendations have followed suit with how we felt about a movie or show, so we were happy enough to save some time watching Too Old to Die Young because boy can it be ever slow.
For those who are unaware of the show, it’s the latest project from infamous director Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive, The Neon Demon), and follows the life of Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy Martin Jones (Miles Teller). After a tragic incident, Jones becomes a benevolent hitman hunting down the worst individuals of society and eventually crosses paths into a world filled with the cartel, yakuza, and other underground assassins.
And that’s putting it mildly. There are a lot more gruesome events that happen which make the show really earn its MA+ rating but thankfully these disturbing undertones made the show more exciting to watch. Had these darker moments not occurred, most of these episodes would have been devoid of anything interesting.
We should also emphasise the word “eventually” in the paragraph before because Too Old to Die Young really does like to take its time with getting things moving. Everything moves at a snail’s pace to purposefully build up this feeling of being methodical and calculating, much like the characters of the show.
While at times, we enjoyed the creative decision behind this as well, as well as taking in the ambiance of things being slowed down compared to most of films/shows/life being quite fast in comparison, it can be an off-putting aspect at times. Perhaps it’s a sign of the limits for our attention span, but holy hell do some scenes take an extraordinary amount of time to show such small snippets of information.
For example, we’re fairly certain Refn instructed the actors to count to five in their heads before they said their next line, even if it was just one word. The dialogue in this film can be excruciatingly slow in the film that it actually verges on being unrealistic because this is not how people would talk. Especially since almost all of these characters talk show only the smallest of facial expressions (sometimes none at all); akin to how Refn directed Ryan Gosling in Drive and Only God Forgives.
Honestly, there’s so much that could have been edited out to reduce the length of these episodes drastically.
Thankfully everything looks spectacular and why wouldn’t it since it’s by Nicolas Winding Refn. By this point, we’ve come to accept that he is less of a great storyteller as he is more of a great visual director. There are a lot of scenes with absolutely stunning lighting and set design that you can’t help but admire it from a visual standpoint even if nothing’s really happening in the scene. Particularly since it’s clearly most of these would have taken quite the time (fitting with the theme of being slow) and effort to set up.
Anyone who knows of Refn’s work would also have come to expect those 80’s music synths in his films and once again they make a great return in television format.
Rather than being electric pop or somewhat lighter in tone such as those seen tracks in Drive (“Nightcall”, “A Real Hero”), the music in Too Old to Die Young is very menacing and intentionally off-putting without being unlistenable. It’s meant to make you feel uncomfortable while subtly drawing you in with its 80’s styled rhythmic synths. Everything felt different from his earlier work (which had songs we’d regular listen to and enjoy on long night drives) but we loved the change because of how much it complemented the scenes where it was used.
We should also briefly add that Too Old to Die Young also tries to add in more layers to make it feel philosophical with its social commentaries about modern America and mankind. Some of these worked but some of them also came across as pretentious monologues that didn’t really have any great rational thought behind them. Picture the film Killing Them Softly crossed with a discount True Detective and you’ll know what we mean.
Overall, we would still recommend Too Old to Die Young but mostly for fans of slow-burn crime dramas or of Nicolas Winding Refn. There’s enough here from episodes 4 to 8 to justify giving it a shot to see if it’s for you but go in after accepting that things are likely to be slow. We’re not sure why Refn seems to enjoy having his characters talk slowly and without many expressions, but hey, at least it’s different and fantastic to look at.
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