I’m finally close to caught up with Winding Refn, save for the Pusher series. He is a very polarizing figure in cinema, often splitting people into two camps: those that find his work brilliant, and those who would claim style over substance. For me, this one falls in the middle. Some weak characterization and motivation issues detracted from the overall experience, but the trademark visual flair he is known for is front and center and captivating as ever. Nobody can light a scene like he can, and in this case blinding neons are frequently used to cut through jet-black shadows, seemingly ruminating on the nature of good versus evil, and how they can both come from unexpected places. I know many complain about the pace of his films, but their deliberate nature never bothered me, as it always seems to me that he is meditating om something both within the frame and outside of it. Composer Cliff Martinez has plenty of credits to his name, but his music pairs so perfectly with Refn’s visual techniques that I will forever associate him with this one director. It is as powerful a union as the matching of brutal violence with beautiful imagery that is on full display. There are themes of both vengeance and forgiveness, duty to family and a desire to cut those bonds (literally and figuratively). While this isn’t the man’s best work, Refn continues to make awe-inspiring films that draw me in every time.