It’s hard to care about a show that doesn’t seem to care for all the best parts of it – and that means even harder to care. Copenhagen cowboys. New Netflix series from Drive writer and director Nicolas Windy Refn has all his signature stillness, extreme violence, and neon-lit scenes. It also has the most interesting world his work has ever included. It’s a shame the show doesn’t show that.
[Ed. note: This post contains spoilers for Copenhagen Cowboy season 1, but you should read it anyway, because this is really the only way you might finish this show.]
First, let’s get the important part that the program is hidden from: Copenhagen cowboys tells the story of Miu, a lucky spirit who fights people and deals with drugs — even if most of her time is spent just staring at the camera during long, near-still close-ups. . It also tells about a family of vampires and the veil (seemingly paper thin) between the supernatural inhabitants of another reality and the Danish criminal world.
In other words, this is going to be one of the coolest shows ever. Instead, Refn seems confused by the eccentricity and fantasy of his own world. The first two episodes of the show barely even give a hint of the world it sets in, letting the weird do the work that magic can have. Miu spends the first season trapped in a seemingly remote Danish brothel somewhere, before escaping in the second part down a dirt road that leads to a similarly isolated Chinese restaurant.
Moments like this, or when Miu seems to save a stillborn baby by blowing life into it, are Copenhagen cowboys feels like it’s on the verge of something, whatever, more interesting than its dull pilot. However, obstinate Refn permanently shies away from the fae his series seems to be reaching for, preferring to refer to blood drinking and superpowers on the periphery of a story that primarily focuses on low-level crime. there is no magical power in sight.
This proximity to something truly special isn’t limited to Refn’s story (which he co-wrote with Sara Isabella Jønsson Vedde). Refn has always been an incredible visual composer, particularly devoted to his own particular aesthetic, and that’s no less true in Copenhagen cowboys. But with every major image change from Refn comes the potential for a big miss.
When at his best, Refn can turn sparse concrete rooms and bare walls into striking backdrops for his characters as suffocating close-ups are practiced on motionless faces. their own, so that the smallest movements of actors express their emotions more clearly than words. Instead of the traditional fire/reverse dialogue, Refn spends most of his time Copenhagen cowboys rotate the camera in a circle, choosing a complex combination of staging and dialogue between characters, who can spend half of their dialogue offscreen as the camera pans away from them. And, of course, the neon lights filled every room so much that it seemed to eerily ooze out of the actors’ skin.
But Refn misses as often as he hits Copenhagen cowboys – even if some of those visits are home. A particularly jarring example comes when Miu enters a trance-like state, somewhere between the spirit world adjoining ours and the filthy Danish warehouse she is encountering a crime boss. In the scene, Miu dances while neon lights shine around and glide past her, stretching herself and her limbs into refracted light. That kind of moment looks like magic. But it doesn’t work. Instead, it looks like Refn lost a bet to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and was forced to recreate the streaming service’s intro somewhere in his series. The lighting looks dim and unnatural in a cartoonish way, and instead of something transcendent, the scene’s spell is broken, instantly turning it into an embarrassingly revealing fire. some of Refn’s most ineffective pretense.
But all of this just makes the real highlights of the show all the more annoying. Buried within nearly six hours of stillness, silence, and sometimes goofy images is a wildly entertaining display of the creatures of the Underworld that haunt the streets and forests of Denmark. Circuits, charting paths for themselves out of the worst regions of the world. Refn seems to be saying that if these underworlds are ready to receive and exploit the gifts of the outcasts from the human world, then why are they mocking the outcasts of the world? Supernatural? Everyone has something to offer, so why should a soul in a blue tracksuit be different?
But the task of digging that brilliant premise out of a program often feels daunting. In stark contrast to Refn’s previous series, Too old to die young — which suffers from similar problems but often explodes with passion when actors are allowed to go on for a long time pointless, explanatory monologues about how the world might end — Copenhagen cowboysIts dialogue becomes uncomfortably confusing and gets stuck in the plot’s moment-to-moment intrigues.
When the series finally let loose, mostly in the final episode of this season when the spirits converge and the vampires hunting them emerge, it becomes harder not to mourn all that wasted time. and all the time this show spends isn’t even half as enjoyable.
This is not to say that Refn shouldn’t have all the stills and featured images he wants, but when there isn’t any obvious point or meaning behind those images, they start to feel regret during the six hours of the season. This is even more true when the alternative is the stunning Danish monster series he created but seems pathetically boring.
Six episodes of Copenhagen cowboys currently streaming on Netflix.