Monday, May 5, 2014

He was brought up from Hell.

Don't tell my wife, but for the last couple of years, there's been someone else. It all started with a wild Saturday night, back in September of 2011. It began innocently enough, a happy accident, but quickly blossomed into full-on obsession. Initially, just having my thoughts consumed by that magical evening were enough, but eventually, I needed more. I caved, and invited this person into my home. Things got crazy, and my wife ended up walking in on us. It was impossibly awkward her catching us like that [lurid details].

As a result, we wouldn't meet again until two years later to the day (fine, it was like two years and four days...whatever). All that time apart would make my expectations of our next meeting astronomically high. Surely I would be disappointed, right? Imagine that it ended up being worse than mere disappointment. It was so bad, I was never going to do it again. Never was I going to put myself out there like that. It was too risky, too painful.

I was done with him forever.

Well, I thought I was, anyway. After the Cleveland Steamer that was Only God Forgives [review], I swore I was done with Nicolas Winding Refn. But as my nine-month old daughter luckily slept in her swing a few days ago, I decided to give him one last chance. I decided to go back to 1000 A.D. I decided to watch Valhalla Rising

Vikings? Yes, please. Mads Mikkelsen? Don't toy with me. Unflinching violence combining the aforementioned pair? I think I have to change my pants. 

On paper, it seemed like a sure thing. But after the longest 93 minutes of my life, the only thing I'm certain of is I have now discovered my go-to movie when I can't fall asleep.

Despite focusing on the bloody spread of Christianity a thoussand years ago, and featuring a constantly shirtless and thoroughly badass (and potentially psychic) Viking, Valhalla Rising feels insanely familiar. An oppressive group of outsiders runs into a one man shit storm, and is quickly in over their heads. This man, this f--king beast of a person, single-handedly dispatches them in brutal outbursts of rage. We think he's a good guy, but he revels in the violence so much, he's kind of hard to fully root for. Making cheering for this anti-hero even more difficult? Well, he never says a f--king word.

If you're thinking Drive [details], that's fair, but Valhalla Rising, to me, seems like a carbon-copy of Only God Forgives. Though since it came out four years prior, maybe foundation is the better term? Either way, this flick featured all the things, that while I loved them in Drive, drove me to insanity with Only God Forgives. Drive wasn't written by Refn, and not only had this crazy thing called dialogue, it also existed in a world that I could somehow relate to. It felt possible. Maybe even real.

The world of Valhalla Rising also feels real, and is presented in gloriously minimalist fashion. Taking place in only a few different locations, with each feeling terrifyingly void of anything resembling peace and serenity, the setting is perhaps the only reason this film is worth watching. Sure, there's the always incredible Mikkelsen but he's essentially the early Nordic prototype for the T-800. Meaning, he's not going to say anything, he's just going to kill. And see red. Oh, and occasionally take a bath. But other than that? Not much happens. At all.

Look, I don't really know what to say. I felt as if every ten minutes someone was layering my body with led vests, as eventually the less-is-more approach sucked the life out of me. I didn't care about One-Eye, I didn't give a shit about the kid, and it was clear that everyone else was going to be f--king destroyed eventually. Maybe this is all very interesting, and maybe if I saw it again I'd appreciate it more. But as it stands right now, I say to those 'maybes' the f--k it is and no f--king way.

Speaking of being put to sleep by the same ol' thing, here are the Yays and Boos. There were secretly hoping an unblinking Ryan Gosling would randomly show up, while I was secretly hoping my TV would explode. Again.
To the left: Nicolas Winding Refn. Right: m.brown

  • Okay, I totally love when movies are divided into chapters, even if it reminds me of a certain Danish a-hole. Well, a different Danish a-hole.
  • Violence. It was a bit grisly for a nap-time feature, but impressive regardless (I'm pretty sure he eats someone's throat).
  • For example, he bashes the shit out of some dude's head with a rock and it's pretty intense.
  • But not as intense as when he disembowels a guy for no apparent reason other than it's f--king awesome!
  • Even though it's a thousand years ago, someone gets sniped. Sweet.
  • Initially, I liked the no-dialogue approach. Initially.
  • And finally, the showdown at the end. Maybe those guys appeared out of nowhere, or maybe I had emerged from yet another of one of those incredibly long blinks, but that moment was pretty rad.
Mads went all out for his appearance on Between Two Ferns.
  • Oh boy, here we go with the red filter again. It gave me some serious flashbacks to Only God Forgives.
  • Look, even if you're mute, you can point, smile, fart - f--king do something, dammit? Right?
  • Hey, One-Eye, join us! [no answer] You'll be rich. You'll have land. [no answer] You're sins will be absolved...? [wait for answer]
  • Did you ever play Wind Waker? All I remember from that game is that it looked badass, and I spent 99 hours endlessly sailing. Same thing here. Well, minus that cool flute-thing that Link had.
  • So, I was pretty sure this one guy was taking a shit. He wasn't. He was just sitting there. Yes, I was so bored, I actually leaned forward for routine defecation. 
  • I love slo-motion. But not for walking. Or blinking. Or...and this is a big f--king 'or' around Refn films, staring. 
  • Okay, I really was overcome by a rapid onset of narcolepsy, but honestly, about a third of the time, I really had no f--king clue what was going on.
  • And finally, the ending. Yes, I loved those guys. But we went through all this for that? I was so mad, I think I even hate Thor now.
Even through awful experiences, at least you can learn what not to do. Apparently, you should not cross a one-eyed men. Especially the strong, silent ones. It's going to end pretty badly. You probably shouldn't go into a Nicolas Winding Refn movie expecting redeemable characters or emotions outside of simmering rage. It's not going to work out.

You should probably not start a post pretending you had an affair with a man, either. 

Because that post will probably end pretty badly, too. 


  1. OMG! I love this (review) and will gladly avoid this movie. I just got Pusher in the mail today, so I'm hoping that it's on par with the Refn I was introduced to in 2011...otherwise I may start avoiding his name altogether.

    1. Ha. Thanks. Let me know how it goes with Pusher. Though, you've probably already watched and posted on it (f--king machine-like!!).

      Before you write him off...keep in mind..I am a moron.

  2. I will take your advice and not let the promise of Mads tempt me into seeing this movie!

    1. Hey, I hate to deny any lady some angry Mads, but for me, it simply wasn't enough. Imagine how little happened in Only God Forgives. Then imagine a movie where even less happens.

      F--k that.

  3. Might have to skip this one, don't want to watch anything that might make me hate Thor.

    1. My hate, like my love, can be very arbitrary.

  4. Watched Pusher the other day. Very good film! You should check it out.

  5. This looks so insanely boring I refuse to watch it even for Mads. What is wrong with those Danish directors? Oooh, let's not go there...