366 Weird Movies may earn commissions from purchases made through product links.
FEATURING: Angela Bundalovic, Andreas Lykke Jørgensen, Li Ii Zhang, Jason Hendil-Forssell
PLOT: Miu, an 18-year-old girl with mysterious powers, becomes involved in the Copenhagen crime scene after being sold to a pimp’s sister as a “lucky coin.”
COMMENTS: If any Refnheads are somehow unaware of the quiet debut of six episodes of slow, stylized, depravity from Denmark, well… you’re about to be thrilled. Refn continues the style he’s honed through Drive (2011), Only God Forgives (2013), and The Neon Demon (2016): minimalist plot development spiked with bouts of brutal violence, glowing primary color lighting, and noirish criminality, adding a stronger-than-usual dose of stylish conceptual weirdness.
Angela Bundalovic, in a performance that can only be described as “restrained,” centers the movie in an inscrutable charisma. Rail-thin and clad in baggy clothes, Miu begins as an androgynous figure, opening with a scene where a gaggle of Eastern European women take snips off of her bowl haircut for luck. (It’s surprising to learn waifish Bundalovic is actually 27-years-old; she almost looks too young to be Miu’s professed 18.) Later attempts to sexualize Miu will fail; she’s neither feminine nor masculine, but (perhaps literally) alien. Standing quietly and staring with an unreadable expression is her signature move. Circumstances will force her hand and, through clever editing and choreography, reveal her to be a deadly hand-to-hand fighter. That it’s believable that this stick of a chick could pulverize manly men in single combat is a testament to the quiet confidence she exudes. By the time a corrupt criminal lawyer who knew her from before she was sold to the brothel encounters her again, we aren’t surprised that his face betrays more than a tinge of fear. Miu is one badass lady, and season one does not approach the limits of whatever power she possesses.
“Copenhagen Cowboy” languorously makes its way through various red-and-blue-neon-lit chambers, as Miu migrates from the hellish brothel to a Chinese restaurant, with a stopover at a pig farm. The series indirectly explores immigrant experience in the EU, as nearly all the main characters, whether Eastern European or Asian, are undocumented and driven into a common underground criminal counterculture. As the series goes on, a worthy adversary for Miu emerges: a decadent, lily-white, aristocratic moneyed family. They have closets full of perversions: ritual sadism, a phallic sex cult, and strong hints of incest. Are they the indigenous Danish elite, feeding on the underclass? Perhaps, but it turns out that they, like Miu, may be alien to this world, products of witchcraft—or worse. That sounds like a lot of plot development—and we haven’t even mentioned the Chinese gang, or Miu’s brief stint as a drug dealer—but everything spreads sparely across the series’ six-hour runtime, with reveals coming in drips. And fear not, there are plenty of weird adornments to Refn’s moody backgrounds: a man who only communicates in pig squeals, a dead sister resurrected, Miu’s face flowerized.
Probably the biggest issue with the series is its incomplete nature. Episode 6, “The Heavens Will Fall,” hints at answers to Miu’s origin while leaving the actual nature of her newest occult antagonist up in the air. Refn has some pull with a small audience, and brings Netflix a niche prestige they enjoy, but his following isn’t big enough to make a second season a sure bet (about two-thirds of the streamer’s series get picked up for round two, with prospects dropping significantly for a third go). Ending “Copenhagen” on what is, by Refn standards, a cliffhanger is a gamble. It would be disappointing if we didn’t get to see where Miu’s winding path takes her next.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“…so weird, it’s shocking Netflix took a risk on it… fans of the unpredictable, the bizarre, and the deviant will be delighted to see the streamer investing so heavily in the auteur’s flights of phantasmagoric fancy.”–Nick Schager, The Daily Beast (contemporaneous)
(This series was nominated for review by Parmesan74 (letterboxd). Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)