The Neon Demon (Refn, 2016)

Oh Mr. N.W.R. What happened? Ever since Drive, I’ve been expecting great things from you. Only God Forgives (which many hated) was weirdly enjoyable in my opinion, though a clear step down from the former, but The Neon Demon? Oof. I didn’t know you could say the word “dull” in so many colours. This script is drained of all lifeblood, creaking by in a comatose stupor, with nary a wink to bring it down from its gilded throne of self-seriousness. That scene where Alessandro Nivola feeds us the moral of this story is symbolic of the film as a whole: it piles on the vapidity because it wants us to know how vapid the world of modeling is, and it’s so blasé about it that it’s neither fun nor interesting. Even the brief glimmers of camp are too brief and too sedate. If N.W.R. is making an angry statement about the state of the fashion industry, where is his venom? Why is he putting us on a dialysis of morphine instead of adrenaline?

I will give N.W.R. this: he knows how to compose a good shot, and then marry said shot with whatever score Cliff Martinez cooks up for him. Martinez is the unquestionable MVP here, with Natasha Braier’s cinematography a close second and the desperation exuded by Bella Heathcote and Abbey Lee coming in third. Sound and vision are what keep The Neon Demon from descending into paltry nothingness, and had the script’s blade been razor sharp instead of blunted, I think it would have gone to greater heights. N.W.R. has the potential to score, but honestly, I think it will come down to the script from here on in and how he chooses to treat it.