The Neon Demon ★★★½

Third acts are tough. Most of my film-going experience has seen plot propelled by premise, launched by first acts and relying on an agreement with the audience that the filmmaker makes an opening deposit on engagement. In a world where nothing is original, and everything has been done before, we settle for predictability (sometimes, but less frequently, in hindsight) because "the journey is more important than the destination" has been hammered into us as a bulwark against criticism that escapism precludes a cathartic knowledge that everything will be safe and familiar when we return from our narrative sojourn.

Not so here. Here - instead of an opening gambit pushing us forward by Refn - it is Act III that supplies the fuel; pulling the audience toward something inescapable instead of gently guiding us along. There is something obscene going on here in structure that is like some terrible accident we don't want to see but are at the director's mercy to watch. Protagonists are subverted, tragedy is mocked by reverence, and while that old hindsight insists "you should have seen this coming," this fucked up fairy tale saves the best (or worst) for last.