DVDizzy.com | DVD and Blu-ray Reviews | New and Upcoming DVD & Blu-ray Schedule | Upcoming Cover Art | Search This Site

The Neon Demon Movie Review

The Neon Demon Blu-ray cover art
The Neon Demon is now available on home video. Read our review of the Blu-ray.

The Neon Demon (2016) movie poster The Neon Demon

Theatrical Release: June 24, 2016 / Running Time: 117 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn / Writers: Nicolas Winding Refn (story & screenplay); Mary Laws, Polly Stenham (screenplay)

Cast: Elle Fanning (Jesse), Karl Glusman (Dean), Jena Malone (Ruby), Bella Heathcote (Gigi), Abbey Lee (Sarah), Christina Hendricks (Jan), Keanu Reeves (Hank), Desmond Harrington (Jack), Alessandro Nivola (Fashion Designer), Charles Baker (Mikey)

Buy The Neon Demon from Amazon.com: Blu-ray DVD Instant Video

Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn made an immediate impact with his American debut,
2011's Drive. Though an underperformer at the box office and a touch divisive with the general public at large, the distinctive crime drama was greatly appreciated by many critics and civilians who saw it and valued its unique style and soundtrack. Refn's follow-up effort, the Thai-set thriller Only God Forgives (2013), was a case of diminished returns with his now-signature neon visuals and electronic score underwhelming in limited release.

Refn tries to rebound with The Neon Demon, whose title suggests more of the director's flair. Certain elements of Refn's past two films -- the pulsing electronic score (courtesy, as always, of Cliff Martinez), the bright lights and colors in darkness -- do resurface, but Neon is quite different in many ways and though some reinvention is welcome, what we get here is to no one's benefit.

"The Neon Demon" stars Elle Fanning as Jesse, a 16-year-old who moves to Los Angeles to become a model.

An original tale like Only, Neon Demon, which credits Refn alone with story and has him share responsibility for the screenplay with novice duo Mary Laws and Polly Shenham, initially seems to find the director stretching his creative muscles. In lieu of a laconic Ryan Gosling, we get a guileless Elle Fanning as Jesse, a 16-year-old Georgia orphan who has moved to Los Angeles to try to start a modeling career. Everyone (except the viewer, that is) recognizes that Jesse has "it" and is destined for greatness.

While that could be the basis of an uplifting tale, it certainly isn't here. The scathing depiction of the modeling world makes Jesse the prey and everyone around her a potential predator. That includes the agent (Christina Hendricks) who instructs her to say she's 19, an aspiring young photographer and potential boyfriend (Karl Glusman), an exceptionally creepy photographer (Desmond Harrington) who closes a set and makes her strip, and an important fashion designer (Alessandro Nivola) who practically salivates at the sight of her.

Jesse creates the strongest reactions in her female contemporaries. While make-up artist Ruby (Jena Malone) is protective and seemingly enamored, her friends, experienced models Sarah (Abbey Lee) and the proudly surgically enhanced Gigi (Bella Heathcote) rightfully view Jesse as a threat, who is soon competing for the same jobs as them.

Make-up artist Ruby (Jena Malone) seems like the one peer looking out for Jesse's well-being.

What begins as a reasonably compelling and deliberately paced exploration of Jesse's entrance into this dog eat dog profession becomes something altogether different somewhere along the line. Jesse's resistance toward unrequited affection drives one character to necrophilia and it's all downhill from there. The final hour of The Neon Demon feels like three. As slow and uncomfortable as anything I've seen on the big screen, the movie devolves from stylish satire into off-the-wall endurance challenge. You kind of get the movie's horror designation from this painful final act,
which is full of blood and disturbing material. But the film never frightens or unsettles. It simply annoys in throwing any semblance of a narrative out the window and confirming what Only God Forgives seemed to indicate: that Refn made a really good movie in Drive (which had a source text and a script by someone else) but probably cannot be expected to make another anytime soon.

Those who appreciate films that are different and edgy might find some value in The Neon Demon. That includes critics who have been surprisingly divided down the middle (after mostly dismissing Refn's last film). But the average moviegoer will leave bewildered and angry at this film and at themselves for investing in something with ultimately little to say and with no greater goal than to shock.

The movie includes Keanu Reeves in a small role as the slimy and short-tempered manager of the motel where Jesse takes residence. He and an associate have to deal with an intruder into Jesse's room -- a wildcat -- in a scene that is mentioned again but never explained or resolved.

Clearly more talented as a director than as a writer, Refn should consider someone else's script for his next project before all the good will earned by Drive dries up.

Buy The Neon Demon from Amazon.com: Blu-ray / DVD / Instant Video

Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn: The Neon Demon Drive Only God Forgives | Produced by Nicolas Winding Refn: Pusher (2012)
Elle Fanning: Maleficent The Bling Ring | Jena Malone: The Hunger Games: Complete 4-Film Collection
Bella Heathcote: Dark Shadows Not Fade Away The Rewrite | Abbey Lee: Mad Max: Fury Road

DVDizzy.com | DVD and Blu-ray Reviews | New and Upcoming DVD & Blu-ray Schedule | Upcoming Cover Art | Search This Site

DVDizzy.com Top Stories:

Reviewed June 24, 2016.

Text copyright 2016 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2016 Amazon Studios, Broad Green Pictures, Gaumont, and Wild Bunch.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.