Amazon’s Too Old to Die Young
Volume 1: “The Devil”
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
Written by Refn & Ed Brubaker
* For a recap & review of Volume 2: “The Lovers” – click here
In the Tarot, The Devil warns of a struggle between one’s baser and higher instincts, a conflict of opposites. If upright, the card means you’re tied to a commitment enslaving you, but perception is key, and a commitment— financial or career-wise— has imprisoned you. If reversed, the card reveals the damaging imbalance of opposites, a clash between gratification and morality, or the head v. the heart, warning against temptation and to act honourably.
Officer Martin Jones (Miles Teller) and his partner Larry are in a parking lot watching over Los Angeles. Larry’s having trouble with a mistress. Dude’s talking about “her dying” as the only way he’ll see the end. He considers women the “ultimate evil“, and it’s clear Martin doesn’t quite agree with the misogyny, though says nothing— we soon find he’s not much better.
Across from them in another parking lot, a man watches them.
The partners stop a woman. They ask her to step out and Officer Jones heads back to the car while his partner talks to her, asking how her night out went, if she dates black guys. Uncomfortable and wildly inappropriate. It only gets worse. Martin stands there, not doing anything. They make her hand over her wallet. Larry takes a few hundred dollars, sending the woman off with a warning, and he splits the cash with his partner.
These two men are a hideous picture of the LAPD.
While Larry’s talking to his young mistress on the phone, he’s gunned down by a man— Jesus (Augusto Aguilera)— in the street. “It‘s for my mother,” says Jesus. Martin returns fire, but the guy gets away. His partner’s already dead. In the pool of blood lies the phone with a picture of the gunman behind him right before it occurred. Afterwards, Martin goes through all the typical procedure necessary. He neglects to give over the phone. He’s going to seek the killer outside of the law.
In Mexico, Jesus goes to see his sick father. The old man talks about seeing the young man’s mother recently as “a cat.” The cat cried over a dream she had about her son: “A dream of the life you will never have now.” It became an angel, flying away, and told him to take care of Jesus like a son, not an uncle. He says they’ll celebrate every year after this for him taking vengeance for his mother, Magdalena. Jesus gives him the gun he used to kill the cop that killed her.
Martin makes a call to a guy called Damian (Babs Olusanmokun). He gets hung up on. He calls back urging he needs to talk to Damian. He offers to show him the picture of the man who killed Larry. He meets with Damian, whose man Celestino (Celestino Cornielle) confirms it’s Jesus in the picture. Damian claims Larry said he only shot a driver while it was Martin who shot Magdalena. Officer Jones denies this version of events. What’s clear is that Larry and Martin have been doing more dirty work than scaring young women and stealing from wallets. Worse, Martin’s got to work to make things right. He’ll have to implicate another man for Larry’s murder. Or commit murder himself.
you’re a red-blooded,
At the station, Larry’s mistress Amanda (Callie Hernandez) comes around. She’s planning to blackmail Officer Jones into getting money her man supposedly had stashed away for them. “Fuck Larry,” his partner says. Although Martin acts like he’s got some kind of moral centre, he’s pretty immoral. He IS banging a high school girl, after all— Janey (Nell Tiger Free), who’s told her father about their relationship, making his weird life all the more complicated. He can’t even stand in solidarity with his dead partner. Then again, Larry kinda sold him out in several ways, from lying to Damian to telling his mistress about how they killed people.
Martin meets Janey’s dad, Theo (William Baldwin). The father lives in a modern art-adorned home. He has a noticeable coke sniff. He’s quite the bourgeois dickhead with a room full of art including a “solid gold” phone that “doesn‘t work” and a “real Nazi” painting. We hear how Martin and Janey met when he responded to her mother’s suicide, which dad insists on calling an accident. Good lord.
What a fucking shitshow Martin’s life is— he’s not a corrupt cop, he’s a corrupt soul.
There are eyes on Martin all the time. He’s in the car with Janey when there’s a knock on the window. Celestino dropped by to talk. He takes Martin to a car, where Damian asks for a progress report. The gangster doesn’t hear what he wants, so this means Officer Jones gets the shit kicked out of him a bit.
Too late for Martin to frame the dude for Larry’s shooting. Time for murder now.
“Be the tiger.”
At a garage, Martin sneaks in under cover of night with the unregistered gun he’s been given. He finds his target sitting naked, high on prescription pills. But he’s attacked before he can shoot. They wrestle. Then Martin knocks him to the floor before putting a bullet in the back of his head.
Cut to Larry’s private cop memorial. Captain Sylvia Wilcox (Kristin Carey) talks about him, like he was a good, ethical family man, not a cheating, lying, dirty cop who’s killed and robbed people. Martin shows up to play his part. He knows better than most who Larry really was, because he’s the same type of wretched man. Later, Cpt. Wilcox tells Martin he’ll be on the “Detective Squad” and fast-tracked up the chain of command.
Martin’s called away to see Damian. He’s shown that Amanda was beaten and tortured brutally. She gave him and Larry up to the Mexicans for coke. They’re handing Martin a gun to finish her off. He works for Damian, no longer any choice in the matter.
Maybe he’ll get vengeance for his partner.
Maybe he’ll also lose whatever’s left to his disintegrating soul.
“I’ve got a lot of men who hate women”
An incredible opener for Refn’s series / long movie, whatever you want to call it. Just a stunner. Love how Refn doesn’t need to centre his stories on moral characters for it to be interesting or for his characters to latch onto the viewer. It’ll be fun to watch how things unfold from here. Visuals, music from Cliff Martinez, and the writing are all great, plus the performances are solid so far.
Volume 2: “The Lovers” is next.