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Series / Too Old to Die Young

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Following characters' existential journeys from killers to samurai in the City of Angels.note 

Martin: Society's falling. It's all collapsing around us.
Viggo: Soon our cities will be washed away by floods. Buried in sand. Burned to the ground. That's why you found me.

Too Old to Die Young is a 2019 TV miniseries directed by Nicolas Winding Refn and written by Refn and Ed Brubaker. Released exclusive to Amazon Prime, the series consists of ten episodes and follows two concurrent stories.

Martin Jones (played by Miles Teller), is a morally-questionable police officer in Los Angeles. After Martin's partner Larry (Lance Gross) is assassinated on the job, he's held personally responsible for his partner's debts to Damian, a powerful gangster, and forced to become a hitman.

Meanwhile, Larry's assassin, Jesus (Augusto Aguilera), son of the late cartel lord Magdalena (Carlotta Montanari), returns to his family home in Mexico, where he meets a young woman with her own agenda named Yaritza (Cristina Rodlo), known by the nickname "The High Priestess of Death", and together they begin planning to take back the LA territory they believe rightfully theirs - the territory currently controlled by Damian (Babs Olusanmokun).

Martin soon finds a new partner in the form of Viggo (John Hawkes), an ex-CIA turned fellow hitman working for a mysterious woman named Diana (Jena Malone). As he sinks deeper into the seedy depths of the criminal underworld, a gang war caused in part by his own actions slowly begins to brew, and he soon finds his mistakes catching up to him...

The series is scored by Refn's regular composer, Cliff Martinez.

Despite being released in an episodic format, Refn has repeatedly referred to it as a 13-hour long movie.

Too Old to Die Young provides examples of:

  • Ambiguous Situation: Diana emotionally tells a story where Goldilocks was raped by the Big Bad Wolf, but came back the next day and gutted the wolf. It's likely, but never confirmed, that this is her backstory.
  • Anyone Can Die
  • Badass: Viggo and Yaritza. Viggo is likely a Badass Normal; Yaritza definitely brings the bad-ass but the 'normal' bit is up for interpretation. Viggo's health issues probably qualify him as a Handicapped Badass as well, but he soldiers on through them because he has nothing much in his life left besides "the hunt."
  • Bourgeois Bohemian: Diana, who is very well-off and practices various forms of New Age mysticism. The finale shows her masturbating in virtual reality and lounging by her expansive pool before detailing the visions she's had regarding the incoming horror awaiting mankind, before she leads us out of it. Hopefully.
  • Black Dude Dies First: The very first character to die onscreen is Larry, who is African-American.
  • Bling-Bling-BANG!: Yaritza's diamond-encrusted handgun.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Martin's boss in homicide loves cracking jokes, doing funny voices, and putting on theatrical performances. His office seems to eat it up. When he stops by to help Martin investigate a case, however, he gives simple and useful advice, showing that he's still a pro at what he does.
  • The Cameo: Hideo Kojima of all people, as an assassin.
  • The Cartel: Jesus was born into the cartel, and we spend quite a lot of time among the cartel's people on both sides of the border.
  • Character Tics:
    • Martin has a tendency to spit as punctuation.
    • Theo snorts constantly in some scenes. It's not clear if he's a coke fiend or has some sort of unrelated sinus problems.
  • Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!: An understated example. After making his first vigilante assassination, Martin is shown drinking a beer with a faintly satisfied expression while 999's "Homicide" triumphantly blares, "I believe.... in homicide!"
  • Dancing with Myself
    • Alfonso is seen dancing by himself as a cartel gathering, exulting in the group's power.
    • In the final episode, Diana performs a triumphant dance by herself in her home, possibly as part of her apotheosis into the goddess of her prophesied age of innocence.
  • Dark Action Girl: Yaritza seems to have perfect aim and takes out groups of armed enemies with ease.
  • Decoy Protagonist: A layered example:
    • The first episode begins with Larry giving a lengthy monologue and then harassing a woman he's pulled over while Martin stands beside him mostly mute. Then Larry is assassinated, and the series largely follows Martin instead.
    • Martin gets the most screentime and development, and is played by the biggest star on the show, but he is violently killed by Jesus at the end of episode 8, which leads to perspective for the remaining two episodes shifting between Yaritza and Diana. Given that the final episodes might be the beginning of some sort of apocalypse or cleansing of most or all of mankind, the day-to-day misdeeds and final fate of a single dirty cop seems almost comically irrelevant.
  • Diegetic Switch: In "Volume 5: The Fool" Little Billy turns on the radio, which plays "Mandy" by Barry Manilow. The song then plays during the entire scene.
  • Dirty Cop:
    • Larry is introduced suggesting that he may have to murder his mistress. He then creepily hits on a woman during a traffic stop and extorts money from her. He's later implied to have murdered some gangsters while working as a Professional Killer.
    • Martin has no problems taking half of the money Larry extorts from a civilian. He works as a Professional Killer for Caribbean gangsters. He later becomes a Vigilante Man and kills people for Diana.
    • The local police force in Mexico is completely corrupt and on the take from the cartel.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Janey is casually and abruptly shot in the face while walking on the beach. Martin's death is far too intense and drawn-out to count as mundane, but many viewers probably expected some sort of rescue attempt or Plot Twist because he's the theoretical protagonist. But no, he gets beaten for three days and killed off just as he's told he'll be, without a single hope of escape, and the show moves on and evolves without him.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: Characters frequently talk about how the world is coming apart, both literally (via climate change) and figuratively. Some are actively rooting for it, if only because they believe a better, more innocent world will take its place.
  • Everything's Sparkly with Jewelry: While Yaritza is primarily featured as a death machine, she still loves shiny things. She gets her gun tricked out with diamonds and finds herself enamored with the expensive, decadent bottles at Dante's place.
  • Evil Is Petty: Rob, one of the snuff film creators, asks Martin to help him take his drinks to his table. Once Martin arrives with the rest of the drinks, Rob rudely dismisses him without even an acknowledgement of the favor.
  • Eye Motifs: Viggo has a glass eye. Janey gets shot in the eye. Diana gets strange metallic sheen over her eyes and goes through a ceremony in which eye tokens are placed over her own. Yaritza makes up Jesus's eyes, and he requests that she do hers as well.
  • Eye Scream: This is how Janey dies, by getting shot through the eye.
  • Fan Disservice: Plenty, between all of the unhealthy relationships and frequent forays into the cruel and violent worlds of the cartel sex trade and grotesque black-market pornography. Even theoretical fan bait like Jesus strutting around his compound in a Walking Shirtless Scene and his fun time with the gorgeous Yaritza is undermined by the show alternating those scenes with Jesus torturing Martin before chopping him to pieces. And there's the fact that they're both cold-blooded killers. And the Oedipus complex thing. The finale gives you Diana pleasuring herself and sitting poolside in a bikini, and she looks great, but it's right before she delivers a chilling monologue about human depravity. On the plus side, if you have a fetish for long pauses between lines of dialog, you're golden.
  • Film Noir: Well, Neo-Noir to be specific.
  • Foil: Diana and Yaritza are mirrors of each other. Both are avenging angels who hide within an organization while working against it to punish those who harm the innocent, and both have either stated or implied tragic backgrounds. They're also both very wealthy. However, they also differ in many ways. Yaritza is dark, while Diana has platinum blond hair. Yaritza is cold, arrogant and pitiless, while Diana is warm, polite and sensitive. Yaritza uses tarot to communicate with the supernatural, while Diana uses new age crystals and pyramids. Yaritza has supreme confidence in herself, while Diana is sometimes at odds with her visions. Yaritza is a Dark Action Girl who kills her enemies directly, while Diana is a Non-Action Guy who always works through agents.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: During Martin's retirement ceremony, the whiteboard has a variety of eccentric messages written on it, including "Fascism!", hearkening back to the office's previous gathering, and "Lock her up!", referencing Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.
  • Friendly Enemy: Subverted. Don Alfonso has kept the peace with the local police force for mutual profitability, but he secretly despises the police captain. His son Miguel pretends to be civil to the police, but everyone knows that he'd like nothing better than a war.
  • Gainax Ending: In a somewhat low-key sense. The last two episodes of the show put the mild supernatural elements into next gear, with Diana receiving visions of destruction from some unnamed beings and Yaritza being heavily implied to be the reincarnation of Death come to purge the world of evil.
  • A God Am I: Our two main female characters reach their apotheosis in the end:
    • Yaritza declares herself to be the Goddess of Death while executing those who victimize women.
    • Diana's is more subtle. In the final episode, she watches a TV program in which "Monkey Puppet" declares that sin has taken over the world and declares that he is the new god, which causes Diana to smile and laugh. In the end, she receives visions that the world will self-destruct, and that she will then declare a new age of innocence, apparently with herself as the goddess of the new world.
  • Guyliner: Jesus has Yaritza do a full make-up job on him as they practice S&M and explore role-play together.
  • Handwave: We never find out how Martin explained getting stabbed and stranded in the middle of a New Mexico desert, much less covered up his involvement in several murders there, while on leave from work. We only know that Janey believes it was "some gang thing."
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: Martin begins to grow embittered with life as both a cop and a killer, but he is captured and killed by Jesus just as he quits the force.
  • Humble Pie: Despite failing (at first) to complete the hit he was ordered to, Alfonso swaggers into Jesus' mansion to deliver both the bad news and Yaritza's bespoke gun, even pausing to compliment a painting of Magdalena, all in the hopes that he'll get off easy. Jesus sees right through his shtick and showers him in insults before making him get on all fours and make mule noises while Yaritza grins and waves a gun at him. Needless to say, Alfonso is not swaggering when he leaves.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Martin, Rob and Little Billy utterly fail to hit each other during their Car Chase, from very short distances.
  • Incest Subtext: Jesus is strongly hinted to having some unresolved feelings towards his mother early on, with his frequent and sexually charged memories of her. In the later episodes, he takes to viewing Yaritza as his mother's reincarnation while having sex with her.
  • Informed Ability: Janey is apparently a genius, with acceptance letters from Harvard and every other prestigious school she applied for. While she is very well-spoken, strong-willed and mature for her age, she never comes across as intellectual or highly knowledgeable.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: Janey gets accepted to Harvard as well as every other (unnamed) university she applied to. She's apparently something of a genius.
  • Karma Houdini: Janey's Asian friend is extremely rude and racist to Yaritza, causing Janey to chastise her, but at the end of the group's game, it's Janey who gets slapped to the ground by Yaritza.
  • Leave the Camera Running: And how. Almost every single shot is padded out by long pauses between each line of dialogue, along with plenty of gratuitous pans/zooms.
  • Magical Realism: Grows increasingly magical as the show goes on.
    • Diana seems to be receiving messages from otherworldly beings. She has strange visions, seems to predict the presence of Yaritza, predicts that she won't see Martin again, and at one point her eyes get covered with a metallic sheen. However, she might also just be taking hallucinogens.
    • Yaritza seems to be some sort of supernatural avenger given her superhuman combat abilities and the mythic quality of her High Priestess Of Death persona, but she might just be a badass with a knack for public relations. While 'High Priestess Of Death' is a hell of a Red Baron, it's also simple practicality for The Mole to use a nickname to maintain their cover.
  • Meaningful Name: Viggo refers to his vigilantism as "hunting," and he receives his orders from Diana, whose name comes from the Greek goddess of the hunt.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: Yaritza's targets are mostly men.
  • The Mole: Yaritza, who constantly undermines the cartel's sex trade by killing her own men and letting the women go free. This seems to be a single-issue matter for her, as she doesn't interfere in anything else and often gleefully participates in (or at least idly watches) the cartel's other acts of torture and violence. Whether her relationship with Jesus is genuine or some longer game to harm the cartel is never specified.
  • Mood Whiplash: The series is largely grim and humorless by design, but takes a welcome turn into Black Comedy during the Car Chase. You've got firing worthy of the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy, Little Billy's hair (or whatever the hell it is), and some fun Casual Danger Dialog all set to the strains of Barry Manilow.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Yaritza has her moments mid-season, showing a lot of skin and working a Supermodel Strut for everything it's worth. How much of this is undermined (or enhanced) by her body count and other hobbies is up to the individual viewer.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Given the show's recurring theme of modern fascism and the fact that Theo is a rich idiot with the hots for his daughter, he's probably the resident stand-in for Donald Trump. 2019 was a banner year for Baldwins mocking the President on television.
  • No Ending: The series comes to a sudden ending, with many plot lines still unresolved. This appears to be a very deliberate and blatant example, as the finale is about a third of the length of the average episode and has basically no plot to speak of. It even opens with Diana masturbating for several minutes, which could be seen as Self-Deprecation by the creators for their own indulgence. With Magical Realism officially taking the wheel, the fact that the show opened on two corrupt cops feels like a distant memory.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Martin goes to great length to rescue a woman who'd been left for dead, but the woman is so psychologically damaged that she grabs a nearby switchblade and stabs him before running away without a word, leaving Martin wounded and in the middle of nowhere for his trouble.
  • Off with His Head!: Martin gets decapitated by Jesus at the end of episode 8.
  • Pervert Dad: Let's just say that Janey's dad has some very strong feelings for his daughter. This ultimately leads to his death, after he angers Martin by masturbating to the thought of her right in front of him.
  • Professional Killer: Lots. Martin becomes pressed into serving as a gang assassin. The cartel uses varying levels of hired killers. Viggo is essentially hired by Diana to kill criminals, though his interest is in vigilantism rather than profit.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Zig-zagged. Jesus is a brutal and uncompromising cartel kingpin who comes to enjoy anal penetration and being made up in drag through his relationship with Yaritza, but this may be part of some sort of scheme for her to emasculate and undermine him. Even if it is, we never see it affect his bloody ambitions.
  • Rustproof Blood: A number of scenes are spattered with copious amounts of blood that is still bright crimson in spite of being hours old.
  • Snuff Film: A pair of New Mexican psychopaths make "rape movies" that almost certainly prove fatal to their victims.
  • Scenery Porn: In true Refn fashion, the visuals are undeniably stunning, frequently contrasting darkness with bright, colorful light.
  • Serious Business: Played for dark comedy a few times.
    • Miguel takes his soccer game with the local police very seriously and threatens to kill the families of any of his teammates if they don't play well.
    • Little Billy and Rob squabble over the radio station during a Car Chase. Rob wants a fast beat, while Little Billy seems to prefer ballads. They settle on "Mandy" by Barry Manilow.
  • Sexiness Score: Janey's dad first establishes himself as a creepy Pervert Dad by telling Martin that his own daughter is "a 10".
  • Silence Is Golden: As is standard for Refn, many scenes take place in complete silence except for the actors' voices and with long stretches where you could hear a pin drop.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Episode 5 features a tense car chase... set to the song "Mandy" by Barry Manilow.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Refn's previous film Only God Forgives. Both films feature:
    • Long, slow scenes filled with pauses
    • Compositions of bright, colorful light, including lots of neon, contrasting with deep darkness.
    • Stoic characters
    • Sudden and shocking violence
    • A serious Oedipal complex between a man and his crimelord mother.
    • A character hinted to be an incarnation of death.
  • The Starscream: When Jesus arrives back in America, the local captain, Alfonso, passive-aggressively challenges his authority, making frequent derisive and condescending comments. Jesus eventually stands up to him and puts him in his place. He's as loyal as a whipped dog from then on.
  • The Stoic: Much of the cast, per Refn's style. Martin is an especially impressive example.
  • Stupid Crooks:
    • When a cartel member hires a Professional Killer to take out Damian for $6,000, the killer decides that Damian's security is too tight, so he subcontracts out a local flunky, Jaime, to do it for $2,000. Jaime also decides that he's not up to the task, so he gets a local junky to do it for $200 and a baggie of cocaine. The junky bungles it and gets himself killed.
    • In spite of being a criminal kingpin who is usually surrounded by security, Damian sees fit to stand on side of the street while he and both of his bodyguards keep their eyes shut and groove to loud music. They're practically begging to be assassinated.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: The Car Chase, which averts the usual "cool" car chase tropes because most of the participants are deranged pornographers with likely no experience in stunt driving or firing a gun in a fast-moving vehicle. And while Martin is a trained police officer, handling a firearm AND a high-speed car at the same time while people are trying to kill you is probably incredibly challenging.
  • Tarot Motifs: Each episode is named after a tarot card.
  • A Taste of the Lash: Jesus whips Martin for three days before killing him.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill
    • After shooting the poor innocent 18-year-old Janey in the eye, Alfonso shoots her quite a few more times on the ground, as if there were any chance she'd still be alive.
    • Jesus takes three days to torture and then hack apart the final subject of his revenge.
  • Those Wacky Nazis:
    • The two rape pornographers visit a preacher who extols the virtues of the Nazis.
    • Yaritza executes a man who hired one of the cartel's sex slaves in a hotel room where he's hung up a huge Nazi flag.
    • In the montage where Viggo is slaughtering evildoers, a Nazi flag is shown flying along with the shrapnel.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: The ascension of Miguel and Jesus to leadership of the cartel has this feeling, as Miguel quickly starts a war with the police and Jesus urges his men to Rape, Pillage, and Burn any competition, a far cry from their soft-spoken, seemingly peaceful uncle.
  • Vengeance Feels Empty:
    • Averted with Jesus, who promises to beat Martin with a whip for three days before finally killing him. He holds good to his word, even though Martin is already non-responsive by the second day and barely qualifies as alive. When it comes time to finally finish him, Jesus savors the death stroke, and THEN runs around chopping up Martin's dead body into pieces because There Is No Kill Like Overkill. Jesus then declares the entire site to be holy ground given what he accomplished. Quite extreme, especially given that Jesus was content to simply shoot Larry in the head when HE was believed to have killed Magdalena, showing just how dangerous Jesus is with real power.
    • Viggo treats vigilantism as a drug. It's the only thing he has left in his life. In the end, he meets with Diana because he "needs to hunt again," but he's never shown actually taking satisfaction from it.
  • Vigilante Man:
    • Diana and Viggo kill the people who have preyed upon the victims who seek therapy through her office. Martin eventually joins them.
    • Yaritza takes it upon herself to kill anyone involved in the cartel's sexual slavery.
  • Villainous Incest: The vile Theo is deeply attracted to his daughter, up to and including masturbating to the thought of her with her boyfriend in the same room. Also Jesus and Yaritza, who themselves are not related but Jesus clearly views Yaritza as the reincarnation of his beloved mother, and she happily plays along. (And given the show's penchant for Magical Realism, it might even be true.)
  • Villains Out Shopping: Jesus and Yaritza take a trip to the supermarket where they run into one of Jesus' old friends. It's a striking reminder that Jesus, now a cartel kingpin, was simply the guy that sold the good drugs in school not that long ago.
  • Wham Episode:
    • Oh boy, episode 7. Damian is captured and killed by the cartel, but not before telling Jesus that Martin was the real killer of Magdalena. Also, Martin kills Janey's father.
    • Episode 8. Janey and Martin are both killed by the cartel.
  • Wham Shot:
    • In Episode 7. Damien's severed hands lying on the floor in his house.
    • Episode 9. Diana wakes up and looks at herself in the mirror to find her eyes completely glossed over with a strange metallic sheen.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: What happened to the woman Martin rescued in the desert? We last see her running off toward the highway, and she's is never mentioned again.
  • Whip of Dominance: Jesus brings the whip he uses on Martin into the bedroom with Yaritza. He brings it FOR her, though, and submits to her to be choked and sodomized with it in a mash-up of S&M and Jesus' raging Oedipus complex.