COPENHAGEN COWBOY on Netflix is a new neon noir thriller series from Nicolas Winding Refn (or simply NWR). Of the 6 episodes, I enjoyed the first half most. Stylish as hell, but at the expense of the storyline. Read our full Copenhagen Cowboy series review here!
COPENHAGEN COWBOY is a new Netflix series from Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn (or simply NWR). If you’re familiar with any of his work – I’ll get back to this later – you’ll recognize the style immediately.
This NWR Netflix series is a neon noir thriller, so you will see a lot of pink and blue neon lights. A true trademark of the director. I found the first half of this series to be fascinating and intriguing. However, by the final two episodes, it just did not hold my interest enough. Maybe this would work in a dark theater, but not so much on a smaller screen.
Continue reading our Copenhagen Cowboy series review below. Find it on Netflix from January 5, 2023.
Not exactly Copenhagen
Being Danish, I undoubtedly watch Copenhagen Cowboy differently than international viewers, who have never been to Denmark. I have spent a lot of time all over Copenhagen, and this Netflix series doesn’t really take place there. In fact, it begins in a part of Denmark that could almost be described as rural. At the very least, in the countryside.
By episode 4 of Copenhagen Cowboy, the main character Miu (portrayed in a strong manner by Angela Bundalovic, who many may recognize from the Netflix series The Rain) does actually go to Copenhagen. However, describing the plot as “she traverses the ominous landscape of Copenhagen’s criminal netherworld” is far from being accurate.
And it really doesn’t matter, since the story is much more interesting (for me anyway) during those first three episodes when she’s far from the big city. However, having a title like “Faaborg Fighter” doesn’t have the same international appeal.
An intriguing cast
The only thing that really kept me intrigued was the way Miu interacted with the other characters we come across.
The cast is generally very strong and the characters are well-written. Again, this is mostly true in the beginning. From the Serbian woman, Rosella Dragana Milutinovic, who helps her brother run a brothel. One of the girls forced to work there is Cimona who is portrayed wonderfully by Valentina Dejanovic.
Then on to the Chinese woman, Mother Hulda (Li li Zhang), who works for the gangster Mr. Chiang (Jason Hendil-Forssell) by feeding the corpses of his enemies to her pigs. And yes, good ol’ Zlatko Buric, who has been a staple in many Nicolas Winding Refn movies, is also in Copenhagen Cowboy as Miroslav.
He plays a lawyer who does actually work for the criminals operating in Copenhagen. For the brief time, the story does play out in Copenhagen, I have to highlight Ebriama Jaiteh who plays the drug dealer, Danny, tasked with training Miu. He absolutely nailed his assignment and got me intrigued all over again.
You’ll also see Andreas Lykke Jørgensen as the strange rich boy serial killer, Nicklas, but don’t expect to ever get to know too much about him. Andreas Lykke Jørgensen does a good job of “giving good face”, which seems to be the assignment he got. Again, I do mean this as a compliment to the actor. Just not so much to NWR’s choices.
As his mother, we see Maria Erwolter playing a character who is the exact opposite of her 1899 character. And yes, we even get to see Nicolas Winding Refn himself as a character who only observes. Also, his wife, Liv Corfixen, is in this Netflix series as is their daughter, Lola Corfixen. The latter plays the sister of serial killer Nicklas.
Style over content – to a grotesque degree
I do actually like the very clear-cut and recognizable style of NWR. Still, one thing is the title, and another is the official plot. And sure, it may be a pet peeve, but I don’t like it when the plot is wildly inaccurate. However, this seems to be an overall theme for the Netflix series; Saying it’s one thing when it’s really something else entirely.
Copenhagen Cowboy is very much about the enigmatic girl Miu (Angela Bundalovic) and the people she meets along the way. However, the further along we get, the slower events seem to happen.
In the official screener letter, Copenhagen Cowboy is called a “thrill-inducing, neon-drenched noir series” and well, it simply isn’t.
My Fitbit thought I was sleeping
Neon-drenched, yes. Thrill-inducing? Well, let me put it like this; Despite being wide awake and (at this point) still very much intrigued by Copenhagen Cowboy, my Fitbit actually recorded my time watching two episodes of this “thrill-inducing” series as a nice nap.
Again, this was while I enjoyed it. During the last two episodes, my Fitbit probably registered my pulse as being all over the place as I got increasingly irritated with the lack of story. When I say that 15 minutes can go by with a lot of artistic imagery and not much storyline evolving, I am not exaggerating.
It ends up going from feeling like part Drive and The Neon Demon, to just being straight-up experimental theater. Kung-Fu fighting sequences play out like a dance. Instead of having our Kill Bill-inspired heroine fighting as she has so far, it changes into something entirely different.
And not something I experienced as a positive evolution of the Netflix series.
Watch Copenhagen Cowboy on Netflix
As already mentioned many times, Copenhagen Cowboy is created and directed by NWR (Nicolas Winding Refn). On the writing side, he is joined by the three female writers Sara Isabella Jønsson, Johanne Algren, and Mona Masri. Something I suspect is what keeps it from getting even crazier. Or rather, I believe it improved the actual characters.
NWR previously directed Drive (2011) with Ryan Gosling as “Driver” which was a movie I loved. Also, he directed Only God Forgives (2013) which has Gosling starring again, and the horror-thriller The Neon Demon (2016) which I also enjoyed, though not as much. If you’ve enjoyed either of these three movies, you’ll enjoy at least parts of Copenhagen Cowboy.
Overall, I suspect Nicolas Winding Refn just had a blast creating this Netflix series. He even has one of his own idols (and a fan of the filmmaker as well), Hideo Kojima, in a small role. And hey, more power to him. This is artistic work of stylized art and I am sure some Netflix viewers will love this. I just think many will quit before finishing it.
While I can appreciate creating a strongly stylized experience, where you feel the story as much as it is fed to you via dialogue and action, Copenhagen Cowboy went too far off the rails for me. There is a line, where style trumps substance, and NWR flew miles past it.
So watch Copenhagen Cowboy for the style it presents and the emotions it attempts to awaken (and succeeds in, to a point). Just don’t expect many of the storylines that begin, to actually reach any sort of conclusion. The ending of Copenhagen Cowboy is very much “on brand” for the series.
Meaning the Copenhagen Cowboy ending is rather abrupt and will also have both fans and haters.
Copenhagen Cowboy is on Netflix with all six episodes from January 5, 2023.
Creator & Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Writers: Sara Isabella Jønsson, Johanne Algren, Mona Masri
Cast: Angela Bundalovic, Lola Corfixen, Zlatko Buric, Andreas Lykke Jørgensen, Jason Hendil-Forssell, LiIi Zhang, Dragana Milutinovic
Copenhagen Cowboy is a thrill-inducing, neon-drenched noir series set across six episodes which follows enigmatic young heroine, Miu. After a lifetime of servitude and on the verge of a new beginning, she traverses the ominous landscape of Copenhagen’s criminal netherworld. Searching for justice and enacting vengeance, she encounters her nemesis, Rakel, as they embark on an odyssey through the natural and the supernatural. The past ultimately transforms and defines their future, as the two women discover they are not alone, they are many.