Style over substance… ‘Copenhagen Cowboy’ Review

Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest is a dark neo-noir drama series with quirky elements and a whole lot of style to cover for its lack of substance. Fortunately, that means all 6 episodes of ‘Copenhagen Cowboy’ are gorgeous to behold even when the narrative is frustratingly skimming the borders of interesting areas to explore (and subsequently explain).

The story follows Miu, a young renegade with various psychic abilities including the power to bring luck to those around her, as she navigates Copenhagen’s dark, criminal netherworld, meeting a variety of individuals who could prove to be friend or foe… Admittedly, the premise is much more intriguing than what actually transpires.

Anyone familiar with the director’s oeuvre will know what to expect, but he still manages to bring something fresh to each episode with trademark camera flair. Tracking shots and slow pans are good, and I particularly liked his use of the 360 degree camera; it stylishly captured conversations, environments, and specific events with a smoothness that lulled you into acceptance of the show’s pacing.

I’m not sure I understood everything the story was trying to do, especially in the final episode where it took on more Lynchian dreamlike qualities with supernatural flourishes, but there was always good moments sprinkled throughout, and the visuals were never less than stunning. Neon-drenched might sound cliche, but it’s apt for describing NWR’s affinity for lighting a scene with almost otherworldly bluish hues and moody reds. Combine this with a synth score that always seems to be evolving from episode to episode and it’s hard not to become enraptured by the audiovisual experience on offer. It’s a tidal wave of style, so just sit back and ride it, basically.

So the cinematography, soundtrack, and stately pace are all signature elements of the director, but what about the ultra-violence so common in his work? It’s graphic on occasion, but nothing like we’ve seen before. However, the fight sequences, though brief, are great. The choreography is simple, elegant, and augmented by the sound design, while the characters fight almost robotically. It’s different, but also effective, and suits the characters involved as they are all quite emotionally reserved. Plus that final fight in the finale is arguably one of the most stylish sequences I’ve seen for some time; the way the sound design is integrated and the way the lighting enhances the framing is glorious.

Overall, ‘Copenhagen Cowboy’ leaves its narrative wide open for a second season it probably won’t get, which is a shame, because even though I didn’t love this, there’s much to like, and certainly room to improve. Nicolas Winding Refn shows off everything that makes him a uniquely stylish director in the industry, imbuing every frame with something entrancing to soak in and showing real quality with use of camera, and though the story needed more work, there’s few series’s out there that look and sound this good.

Score – 7/10

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