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January 12, 2017

The Synopsis for the Next Nicolas Winding Refn Film is Fascinating and Insane

Movie News After Dark

Plus ASC nominations and a familiar face on Better Call Saul.

There’s no question that Nicolas Winding Refn is one of the most intriguing filmmakers presently working, if not also one of the most polarizing. People seem to either love him or hate him, he’s not a filmmaker who attracts a lot of middle ground, and his work embodies this creative stubbornness. Just the last three films he’s made — Drive, Only God Forgives, and The Neon Demon — represent a broad and bizarre realm from which Refn plucks his narratives, one where the mysteries come brightly-lit, daring you to attempt to figure them out, and the characters are murky to the point of being opaque; you can’t understand them entirely, you can only watch, mesmerized, as they guide you through their worlds’ seedy nooks and perverted crannies.

Personally, I think Refn is a fascinating auteur, one who’s on course to end up in a league with someone like David Lynch or Luis Bunuel, that is, a filmmaker who is experimental in a mainstream context, a subversive manipulator of widespread expectations into something unique, unexpected, unsettling, and utterly Refn’s own. You never know what you’re going to get from an NWR film, sometimes even after you’ve seen it, and today we received first word on his next project, which from the sound of it is sure to be another confounding triumph.

Entitled The Avenging Silence, all we’ve known until now was that it was going to be Refn’s take on the contemporary spy and action genres and that it was being written based off an idea of the director’s by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who have a dash of experience in the field thanks to their contributions to all four of the Daniel Craig James Bond movies (Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall and Spectre). All of this in and of itself is pretty intriguing, but then you get to the meat of the story and shit gets crazy. We have this info thanks to Crouching Tigers Project Lab, a panel at last month’s International Film Festival & Awards Macao that selected 12 filmmakers to talk with potential financiers and distributors about their upcoming projects. One of these filmmakers was Refn, and he didn’t skimp on the details. Up first, the logline for The Avenging Silence:

A former European spy, accepts a confidential mission from a Japanese businessman exiled to France to take down the head of the most treacherous Yakuza boss in Japan.

That certainly seems like what we were promised, tinted with a little trademark-Refn Eastern influence and the potential for graphic violence. But it’s in the extended synopsis that the full madness of the director’s vision comes to light. You gotta check this out:

The spy was one of the leading spies in Europe. An injury inflicted to his vocal cords during a failed mission six years ago left him mute, forcing him to leave his profession. Now, six years later, he is sought out and put on confidential assignment by a former Yakuza, now a retired Japanese businessman in exile in France, to track down and kill the head of the most dangerous Yakuza family in Japan.

Afraid of flying, our spy anonymously boards a cargo ship headed for Tokyo. An onboard explosion sinks the ship and our spy finds himself washed ashore on a life raft in southern Japan. As a mute, our spy must silently journey through Japan seeking 4 clues — symbolizing conquest, war, famine, and death — which will guide him to the unknown location of the Yakuza boss. Meanwhile, the Yakuza boss, known for his 2004 mass slaughter of Yakuza members who had turned against him, is believed to be plotting to reenter the Japanese underworld after living in his own surreptitious world in the mountains, void of all technology. This way of life becomes an obsession for the Yakuza boss. Rumors spread that he had committed suicide years ago but escaped prisoners from his hidden camp told stories of his plan for a comeback. Now rival Yakuza families suspect he is forming a master plan to return, a plan that unburies the most infamous story of Yakuza betrayal.

Our spy finds himself on an existential journey through Japan in search of pieces to the puzzle that will lead him to a confrontation with the ultimate Yakuza boss in a terrifying conclusion.

What the holy hell is Refn getting us into? It sounds like some kind of picaresque, violent quest with video-game ideology, Point Blank meets Legend of Zelda but rated M for Mature. And by the way, between this and Duncan Jones’ Mute, wordless is the new badass. Ryan Gosling is perhaps too obvious of a choice for the lead — though of course he’d be great — so allow me to step left a little and suggest Tom Hardy. Or if you want to go less Bond-like, Andrew Garfield. You need an expressive mug for this one, and I’m pretty sure both those guys could nail the role.

Things are, of course, still in the very early stages, but have no doubt Refn will get this made, and it will be spectacular.

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