Dir: Nicolas Winding Refn | Cast: Angela Bundalovic, Andreas Lykke Jorgensen, Li li Zhang, Jason Hendil-Fors, Zlatko Buric, Fleur Frilund, Valentina Dejanovic, Maria Erwolter | Denmark, TV Series
A visionary woman from another planet is at the heart of this spellbinding 6-parter (Netflix), the latest from the maverick Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn, scripted by a clutch of imaginative female writers and limned by glowering compositions and neon-soaked visual effects from award-winning Magnus Nordenhof Jonck (Bridgend, A War).
Back in his native Denmark for the first time since 2005, the arthouse auteur not only stars here but embellishes the film with previous themes from Neon Demon, Only God Forgives and Pusher in a lurid miniseries that is so edgy and aesthetically breathtaking you can forgive its minor narrative flaws.
Copenhagen Cowboy swoops down on the dystopian underbelly of the modern capital where vicious gangs hold sway fed by an evil influx of Eastern immigrants vying for power in the drug trade. Miu (Bundalovic) is the connective tissue between them, an outwardly vulnerable faith healer with a mysterious provenance. This mistress of the martial arts is naturally misunderstood by the misogynist menfolk in her midst who are deeply fearful of her ability to rapidly switch allegiances, cast a spell – or kill with a stroke of her hand. The limpid-eyed Miu is also a miracle worker, a lithe ‘living lucky charm’ decked out in a Prussian blue ‘William Jacket’ tracksuit, for ease of movement.
The film’s casting is superb: Pernille Lembecke and Astrid Faarup have rounded up a compelling cache of actors who not only look surreal but also embody pure evil. As Miu, Angela Bundalovic exudes a laconic remoteness not unlike Scarlett Johansson’s ‘Female’ in Under the Skin. Andreas Lykke Jorgensen is supremely scary as a snarling Danish prince of darkness, and his mother, a vampish blond with chiselled cheekbones, is straight out of a Helmut Newton photo. Then there is Zlatko Buric’s slobbering Slavonic lawyer, a criminal fixer who inhabits one of the city’s stylish skyscrapers, and later emerges as Miu’s negligent relative. A deluded Serbian housewife (Dejanovic) and her vicious axe-wielding pimp of a brother make for nefarious siblings early on in proceedings. Winding Refn also gets a wordless look-in, Hitchcock-style, in a subplot involving the design of a supercharged prosthetic penis. There are also killer pigs whose maniacle squealing provides the soundtrack for one particularly gruesome episode involving the tattooed Aryan prince of darkness in an imagined Danepack-style factory.
These vibrant characters will captivate diehard fans during the many haunting longueurs, and keep us glued to the screen for fear of missing some vital clue or visual flourish. The novelty here is the use of a 360-degree camera that revolves round the set like a southern cassowary scanning for prey.
Refn plays fast and lose with the plot-lines, but who cares with so much visual mastery at play; performances that zing with originality, not to mention Winding Refn’s penchant for avantgarde synth-pop soundscapes – one by Cliff Martinez, another by Julian Winding, complete the spell. Refn’s time with Netflix has ensured the worldwide exposure of his unique brand of talent but word has it that he is returning to the big screen with another bizarre offering. Bring it on soon. MT
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