With a bloody body count of 55, Nicolas Winding Refn's latest project, Too Old to Die Young, which premiered June 14 on Amazon Prime, takes violence and death to another level. The 10 episodes pack murder, rape pornography, sex trafficking, torture, and incest into what Refn refers to as “a 13-hour movie.”
Each episode comes with several warnings, and viewers would be smart to take them seriously. Along with the extreme violence, there are disturbing sexual situations.
The main character is police detective Martin Jones (Miles Teller) who is committing statutory rape by engaging in a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl, Janey (Nell Tiger Free), and has been since she was 16. When he’s not a police detective, he’s teaming up with former FBI agent Viggo (John Hawkes) as a vigilante killer for hire, brutally stabbing or shooting whoever is his target.
Martin is sent to kill brothers Stevie (James Urbania) and Rod Crockett (Brad Hunt), the leaders of an underground porn ring who kidnap and film the rape of their victims. Volume 5, “The Fool,” opens on an 18-year-old awkwardly shy gay man who is about to make a porn film. It turns into rape when he is forced to swallow a pill and sign a consent form he’s forbidden to read, before Stevie tells his goons, “Okay, boys, rape him.” Though viewers do not see the act, it’s clear what’s going on from the noises heard.
But Too Old to Die Young doesn't stop with rape, it also horrifically sexualizes children. Many of the characters Martin is tasked to kill are pedophiles, but he's not much better. Martin tells the Crockett brothers how he met Janey when she was just 16: "I was working. And I saw her on the side of the road. She was crying. I just looked at her in her school uniform. And it really turned me on. I fucked her that night. On the hood of my car." Stevie responds, "You're my hero," and wants to know more about how it felt.
Though sex is discussed and/or implied between Martin and an underaged Janey, it’s not shown on screen until her eighteenth birthday, which shows they know how perverted the storyline is. But just when the statutory rape of Janey is over, she is disgustingly sexually objectified by another man, her own father, Theo (William Baldwin).
Theo tells Martin he watched the two of them in bed and reveals his own incestuous thoughts about his daughter.
Theo: I saw you two last night... I was watching. It was fun. You two looked like you were having a good time. Tell me, tiger, what do you think? My Janey, she’s, what—between us men—she’s a 10 right? She’s—she’s a 10. You know, I always thought if she wasn’t my daughter…[laughs] [imitates masturbation] Got to admit I was a little jealous, watching a Neanderthal like you make love to my little princess. But now that I own you, brings me back to a nagging question that I’ve been wanting to ask for a long, long time. What happened in your pathetic life, how did it become so incredibly banal that you were willing to throw it all away over a little bit of young pussy, huh?
Martin responds by adding Theo to the growing body count, shooting him and then strangling him with his belt until his bones snap.
The show is also over the top in equating religiously devoted Christians with neo-Nazis, rapists and pedophiles. Martin first catches a glimpse of the Crockett brothers at a dimly lit and sparsely attended church gathering, where the ranting preacher refers to the brothers as “front row kind of guys,” who are “out in the community in broad daylight walkin’ every day in unity with a swastika in their hands and their hearts.” On his last killing spree, Viggo blows up a trailer park housing rapists and pedophiles. During a montage of him shooting multiple rednecks, viewers not only see a Nazi flag and cash, but religious icons, such as a Holy Bible and a broken statue of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.
In the final episode, one character monologues about a future where "violence will become erotic, torture euphoric...Faith will be reduced to venomous platitudes, the morphine infested enslavement of thought. Perversity will be dignified. Incest, molestation, and pedophilia will all be praised. Rape will be rewarded." That future vision is realized in Too Old to Die Young.