Too Old To Die Young Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

Pros: the visual component of the series – lighting and camera movement; original and intricate story Cons: set pacing; pauses; violence in large quantities “Too Old To Die Young”

Genre drama, crime
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, Ed Brubaker
Starring: Miles Teller (Martin), Augusto Aguilera (Jesus), William Baldwin (Theo), Nell Tiger Free (Jenny), Cristina Rodlo (Yaritza), Jena Malone (Dianna), Babs Olusanmokun (Damian), etc.
Amazon Video Channel
Year of release 2019
Episodes 10
IMDB website

In modern cinema, neo-noir is associated with the works of Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive, Only God Forgives, The Neon Demon). His author’s style can be recognized even from still frames: bright neons are present on the screen as often as the main characters. It is not surprising that Amazon Studios offered Refn the opportunity to shoot an original series, giving him complete freedom in the creative process. Together with him, the script for the new project was written by Ed Brubaker, an author who came up with comic book stories for the Marvel and DC universes.

Nicolas Winding Refn worked exclusively on feature films before collaborating with Amazon. Judging by the way the Too Old To Die Young series was made, it did not obey the rules that apply to multi-episode projects. Refn showed his specific vision of intrigue, which is completely incomparable with other series (the director did not even try to create a desire to continuously watch one episode after another). In addition, he distributed the duration of the episodes in his own way, so some of them last for an hour and a half.


The plot of the series also cannot be called standard. It has separate lines, the essence of which takes several episodes to delve into. Some of the events take place in Mexico, where the family that owns the cartel lives. The main action takes place in Los Angeles. There, policeman Martin (Miles Teller), after the death of his partner, is forced to cooperate with criminals. Over time, Martin plunges into impunity, where he finds his definition of justice. Due to an event in the past, the world of the cartel and the world of the police inevitably begin to intertwine.


Too Old To Die Young resembles a measured existential journey, which with each passing hour becomes more and more saturated with bloody violence. In the series, it becomes an integral part of the characters, imbuing them with different motivations. Because of this, one involuntarily recalls the works of Quentin Tarantino. True, there is one big “but” here: Tarantino is unlikely to encourage viewers to become depressed with boredom, but Nicolas Winding Refn’s series can succeed in this.


In Too Old To Die Young, the director emphasizes long pauses in dialogue. Between almost every line of the characters there are five seconds of oppressive silence. There will be no other tempo; pauses have become the signature film foundation of each episode. Fortunately, by the second half of the series there is an increasingly dark electronic soundtrack from composer Cliff Martinez (this is his fourth collaboration with Refn), without which it would have been completely difficult.


Yes, difficult is the word that can be used to describe watching the series Too Old To Die Young. To tell the truth, it’s more like a 13-hour film with a unique vision that only fans of the director’s signature style can appreciate in such large quantities. Visually, it’s stunning, with neon lighting in almost every scene and contrasted by the yellow sands of the Mexican rocky deserts. The camera covers large areas and simultaneously focuses on the details of clothing, sometimes moving in circles without focusing on the position of the actors. That’s all well and good, but admiring the effects of Too Old To Die Young can’t overcome the overall slowness of the series, especially in the first four episodes.


It seems that Nicolas Winding Refn himself understands this well. Therefore, when presenting Too Old To Die at the Cannes Film Festival, he cunningly showed film critics not the beginning of the series, but the fourth and fifth episodes at once. In them, the characters of the heroes acquire clarity here and there, and the general history is consolidated in the minds with outbreaks of violence.


By the way, about the heroes. There are a lot of them in the series, and the key figures for the plot may seem secondary at first. One of the central characters is played by Miles Teller (“Whiplash,” “Divergent”). He often looks dispassionately into the distance, showing no emotion. Judging by the pacing of the film, this is also part of Refn’s idea. As does the fact that Teller’s character sometimes appears against the backdrop of the American flag. In this one can find a symbolic hint and prophecy about the fall of society.


Too Old To Die Young has many meanings and interpretations. When you reach the ending, you realize that the story is truly extraordinary. As is the path along which the viewer is led. However, not everyone will be able to pass it. It seems that the director is deliberately confusing and alienating those who are used to watching standard TV series. There is a certain snobbery in this, but Nicolas Winding Refn deliberately made an arthouse multi-part project designed for a narrow audience.


After finishing the last episode of Too Old To Die Young, the director’s vision for the series is impressive. Even more. But it’s impossible to say that watching it was easy. In ten episodes you can grow old and gray from the amount of nihilism embedded in the plot.

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