Nicholas Winding Refn

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Now THIS is a Danish filmmaker we should all be discussing right. Hot off the ultra cool Drive, Winding is set to tackle, Muay Thai, sex tourism, vengeance and, of course, extreme violence in his second collboration with The Gosling and his 10th feature length film, Only God Forgives.








Winding Refn made his debut in the mid 90ís (my favourite decade of cinema) with the crime drama, Pusher. Itís the tale of Frank, a lower level drug Ďpusherí who finds himself in increasingly desperate situations when he is forced to pay a debt back to his boss, Croatian drug lord, Milo. Shot on a micro budget in Denmark, the film has seemingly been tagged with the ĎTarantinoesqueí tag, but I would say that itís a world away from Tarantinoís. As the Refn meister himself has said, Ďhis films arenít about crime, but people in a criminal environmentí.


Refn followed up Pusher with Bleeder. A very brutal tale of the horrors men are capable of and their inability to commit to the opposite sex. Itís not as well known as Pusher, nor is it as accessible, but itís message regarding these themes penetrate without pretentiousness.



Fear X, his first US film, is another one of his more underrated efforts. It stars John Turtturo, as a security man who investigates his wifeís mysterious death. Itís a well constructed thriller that firmly shows the unhealthy nature of obsession. It didnít do well commercially, and it even bankrupted Refnís own production company, but itís still a must see if youíre a fan of Refn.



Returning to his roots, Refn decided to film Pusher's 2 and 3 back-to-back, with great results. Pusher 2 is my favourite of the trilogy, a sly oedipal tale starring a tremendous Mads Mikkelsen (whoís character had been upgraded to lead from a smaller role in the original film) as Toni, arguably the most foolish criminal youíve ever seen on a film that isnít a comedy - as well as the most redemptive. At least for me. This film, unlike the other two, hints at hope amongst the grime and horrors or urban life in Copenhagen.



After completing his trilogy, Refn went on to direct Bronson, Miss Marple tv movie (???), Valhalla Rising and, of course, Drive. I think that he is the most exciting filmmaker who isnít Christopher Nolan working in the industry today. This is a man who is still finding himself and growing with each film, for better or for worse.



Refnís characters are flawed anti heros. And by that I mean REAL genuine anti heros. Ryan Goslingís nameless driver is as close to a good bloke as youíll see in a Refn film, and even he has suppressed brutality in him. All these anti heroís resolutions are as ambiguous as the men themselves. Kim Bodniaís Frank is left pondering whether to run or face the music at the end of Pusher. Milo (Pusher 3ís protagonist) finds himself in a similar spot to that of Frank, the man who owes money to him, and his fate and stance in the criminal underworld is questioned after disposing of a nastier gang of Albanians near the filmís climax. Itís not clear whether Driver survived the ending of Drive. The direction of these people is never clear.



Bronson, based on the infamous crook from Luton, is a summary of a hard man who, through books and other mediums, has suggested that he has lead a threatrical life and exciting life, although that last lingering shot in the film would suggest otherwise. Heís another of Refnís anti heros who commands revulsion and interest at the same time.

For me, his best films are Drive and Pusher 2. All the others range from interesting to great. Valhalla Rising, a film that commands a deeper thought process of symbolic images, is a film I need to see again. Visually, it truly is a work of art, but I have not taken the time to consider what I saw beyond that.



This is the interesting thing about Refn, he has a fatherless filmmaking style as far as aesthetics goes. He started out with that frenetic paced cinema verite, handheld style about urban gang culture in grimy city areas, yet his latter films have been slow moving, slow building, more contemplative with stiller shots and stronger more pleasant looking cinematography. Perhaps it can be taken as a sign that he is maturing, perhaps heís just purposefully schizo in his approach to cinema, who knows.

I do know that his fascination with violence and inevitability of it will continue regardless of the type of film he is making. This is the man who once said Ďviolence is a lot like f**king in fron of Bill Turnball on an early morning BBC broadcast

I anxiously await Only God Forgives, and the bloodshed that will come with it.


So what are peopleís thoughts on this man and his films? What are your favourites? What do you like, donít like? Do his themes hold weight? Is he the second coming of Martin Scorsese?



Tbh, I've only seen Pusher (1996), Drive (2011) and Bronson (2008).

Loved Bronson and was impressed by the other 2 but can't say much else.

I understand he's been attached to the hampered production nightmare that is the remake of Logan's Run...

I was dubious about remaking it but if Refn is as good as he has been in the 3 movies I've actually seen, I'll certainly buy a ticket.



I understand he's been attached to the hampered production nightmare that is the remake of Logan's Run...
That is correct, I don't see him or that production going ahead anytime soon though, because of said production issues.

I'm more excited about the film he has planned after Only God Forgives, a horror sex thriller called I Walk With The Dead. Sounds like it could be fun



I saw Bronson last week and I've seen Drive. I had no idea he made Drive until just now. I'm both surprised and yet not surprised that the films were made by the same guy. I have no comments, really, for this guy -- or about his "themes" -- but, I liked both of those movies. I'd say I like Bronson more, even if I probably gave it a lower rating than Drive -- I find Bronson a lot more fascinating and worthy of more watchings than Drive.



I love Drive, it's one of my favourite films from 2011. The only other Refn film I've seen is (you guessed it...) Bronson. I never took notice of the director until I saw Drive, even though I saw Bronson first, which I thought was good but just wasn't that in to it.

His earlier films that you mentioned sound interesting. Especially Pusher, I will have to check it out soon. And I too am very much looking forward to his next collaboration with Ryan Gosling, Only God Forgives.
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Well you lot definitely need to check out his other stuff because i'm telling you, the man is superbly talented. Like I said before, his earlier stuff is stylistically different compare to his latter works, but they are no less compelling. Basically, if you want uncompromising Danish drama/thrillers then, Refn's the man to check



I couldnít care less tbh.

Since Drive this dudeís been stuck in a neon-lit and never-ending limbo of his own pseudo-soupy intellect that just waters out all coherence and character.

Itís kind of weird seeing his new stuff and then rewatching the Pusher trilogy. Itís basically the polar opposite.



Since Drive this dudeís been stuck in a neon-lit and never-ending limbo of his own pseudo-soupy intellect that just waters out all coherence and character.
That's a spot-on description of his output since Drive and explains why I haven't been interested in it since that movie. I know a lot of people like Only God Forgives and consider it to be even better, but I wasn't nearly as impressed. I may check out Cowboy out of curiosity, which disappoints me because I'd rather check it out because I'm excited about it.

When I think of Refn, I think about what happened to Michael Cimino and Richard Stanley, i.e., two filmmakers that Hollywood picked out of relative obscurity who faltered afterwards.



A system of cells interlinked
I have only seen two of his films, Drive and The Neon Demon. I enjoyed Drive quite a bit but was equal parts bored and annoyed with The Neon Demon.
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I may check out Cowboy out of curiosity
Just watched it. You won't like it.

The worst thing about it is how plot-heave it is (for Refn's late output standards)

So maybe you will enjoy it quite a bit then
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His earlier films that you mentioned sound interesting. Especially Pusher, I will have to check it out soon.
Pusher is one the greatest trilogies ever made. Seen it many times.
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Found the first two episodes to my liking. Itís different without being too pretentious. Refn has never lacked the ability to create and display intriguing characters.



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I'm through 3 episodes. It's quite gnarly and dark. I'd guess that those who don't like Refn's output since 'Drive' will NOT like this. It's peak Refn really.



Found the first two episodes to my liking. Itís different without being too pretentious. Refn has never lacked the ability to create and display intriguing characters.
Are you talking about Pusher?

I'm through 3 episodes. It's quite gnarly and dark. I'd guess that those who don't like Refn's output since 'Drive' will NOT like this. It's peak Refn really.
Are you talking about Pusher?



Please come here and go away
Finished it this morning. Really enjoyed it.

Havenít seen the Amazon series, but this is his first output since Drive that Iíve felt was as watchable as it was great to look at. Cliff Martinez 😳 The world needs more Miu!

WARNING: spoilers below
Hope this gets the second season. Rakel is fierce and that Kojima cameo.