Nicolas Winding Refn is one of the most original directors working today. Combining ultra-violence and absurd dialogue, Refn creates films that are truly unique to his vision. Focusing on the dark underbelly of crime, the filmmaker portrays this world in a surreal way with everything from over-the-top, over-the-top violence to ridiculously long shots, idiosyncratic dialogue, and endings that leave a lot to the viewer’s interpretation. Even the lowest-rated Refn film is worth watching because, with each film, it attempts to tell stories like few other filmmakers have before.
Copenhagen Cowboy is widespread to be Refn’s latest project, fresh off its streaming plunge with its Amazon original series, Too old to die young. There’s a ton of mystery in the air regarding her new project, but the title comes as no surprise. On the set of Too old to die young, Refn was often seen wearing a cowboy hat, and the series was somewhat reminiscent of Old West lawlessness in a modern form. With Copenhagen CowboyRefn may be diving into the niche world of the acid western, bringing his uniquely Danish twist to the genre.
Here’s what we know so far.
Copenhagen Cowboy: Possible Plot and Controversy
Through his Instagram, Refn promotes a mysterious project known as Copenhagen cowboy. His his daughter Lizzie Lou Refn takes center stage in the minimalist promotions, which is tantamount to Refn taking a picture and then doodling Copenhagen Cowboy Above. The show gained publicity in December 2021 when PETA filed a lawsuit against the production due to his killing of a pig on set. The complaint was sent to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings as PETA pleaded for the scene to be cut from the finished product.
On the Instagram page recently created for the project, Refn teased the project with a now-deleted quote from Joan of Arc, “I’m not afraid. I was born to do this.” Refn also included a quote from Tolstoy about the image of the pigs, “all violence consists in some people forcing others, under threat of pain or death, to do what they don’t want to do”. Based on these quotes, it’s safe to assume that the project will once again focus on the criminal underworld of Copenhagen, much like Pusher and the same as Too old to die young made with Los Angeles.
Copenhagen Cowboy: The Cast
The project is set in Denmark, with Zlatko Burić chosen to star alongside Lizzie Lou Refn. The question to ask is whether Lizzie Lou will play the cowboy? If she is Joan of Arc, perhaps her character will fight a great battle in the criminal underworld, winning victories only to meet abrupt demise. This would fit with the trend of Refn’s recent work and the way he crafts his character arcs, but Lizzie Lou can play another character in the story and not the cowboy.
In Refn’s promotional photos, Lizzie Lou is depicted in elegant clothes and a floral face, suggesting that she could be playing another central character in the story. Yet, like many of Refn’s female protagonists, this sleek character may simply be a cover for a far more powerful and dangerous character. Jodorowsky was one of the pioneers of the acid western in the 70s with his cult hit Topo, the story of an outlaw who slays the greatest guns of the west only to find himself empty, seeking the path to enlightenment and rebirth. If Refn is inspired by Topo — and it probably will — Copenhagen Cowboy could be about a renowned gunslinger in the Copenhagen underworld who seeks some form of enlightenment and/or escape.
Copenhagen Cowboy: release date
While no release date is currently known.
Refn, the surrealist
Nicolas Refn began his career with the Pusher Trilogy, a Copenhagen-based crime drama centered on Copenhagen’s drug distribution underbelly. the original Pusher introduced audiences to Mads Mikkelsen, who collaborated on four Refn films — Pusher, Pusher II, tapperand Rise of Valhalla. Between its production of Pusher films, Refn directed two lesser-known crime dramas, tapper and Fear Xthe latter having caused Refn’s film production company, Jang Go Star, to collapse due to financial failure.
Refn has since recovered from that setback and currently operates his own production company, Space Rocket Nation, which focuses on helping up-and-coming Danish filmmakers. Bronson, Rise of Valhallaand Conduct helped make Refn a household name, with Rise of Valhalla being the only of the three films not to focus on crime, taking a surreal, almost dreamlike approach to depicting Christian Nordics attempting to find Jerusalem.
Only God forgives was Refn’s passion project. The film is about an American drug trafficker in Thailand, Julian (Ryan Gosling), coerced by his overbearing mother, Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas), to avenge his brother’s death. Due to its extremely dark tone, unsympathetic characters, and slow pace, it was widely rejected by audiences and called pretentious by some critics, with even Ryan Gosling unable to elevate it into the mainstream. The shooting of the film was documented in the documentary by Liv Corfixen (Refn’s wife), My Life Directed by Nicholas Winding Refn.
The neon demon was Refn’s most recent film, starring Elle Fanning as Jesse, and it tells the story of a young woman attempting to enter the cruel world of Los Angeles fashion. In a sense, The neon demon was Refn’s first horror film. What links all of Refn’s films is his growing taste for surrealism, inspired by the Chilean surrealist Alejandro Jodorowsky, to whom he dedicated Only God forgives.
Over-the-top violence, liberal and graphic depictions of sexuality, ambiguous/tormented characters searching for purpose, and lingering, dreamlike endings make a Refn movie what it is. His exaggerated worlds attempt to critique societal elements such as law enforcement, the fashion industry, and the elite’s hold on society. Unlike Jodorowsky, however, Refn often uses surrealism to display dismal predictions about the direction of modern society.
When Copenhagen Cowboy is finally released, it’s sure to be a surreal romp through the streets of Copenhagen, where lawlessness reigns and morality is ambiguous. We expect an acid urban western with a modern twist without lacking in controversy and memorable imagery.
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