'Drive' director's free cult-movie streaming service enters beta

byNWR access codes are going out now.

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Benoit Tessier / Reuters
Benoit Tessier / Reuters

Director Nicolas Winding Refn's (Drive) movie streaming service has officially entered its beta test. If you signed up for updates when it was announced last October, you should see the byNWR invite in your inbox this week, if not today.

The debut theme is "Regional Renegades," and features three exploitation films: The Nest of the Cuckoo Birds, Hot Thrills and Warm Chills and Shanty Tramp. Previously, Refn promised The Burning Hell would join, but it didn't make the cut for one reason or another. Regional Renegades was curated by the director along with journalist and Neil Young biographer Jimmy McDonough.

If you were worried that Refn would skimp just because the service was free, well, based on this first edition, those fears were unfounded. Each film has a smattering of essays, photos and videos to read, look at and watch. Again, all tied in some way to the movies on offer.

Video quality looks great too, based on a few minutes with The Nest of the Cuckoo Birds. It's unreasonable to expect UHD clarity from these forgotten films, but the 1080p Cuckoo Birds stream looked about on par with the original Night of the Living Dead on Blu-ray. Which is to say, pretty damned good. Kudos, byNWR restoration team.

Oh, and the site itself is just as stylish as you'd expect from the director of the Pusher trilogy, All Good Things and The Neon Demon. If there's a downside, is that if you want to watch any of these films on your flatscreen, you'll have to do so by running an HDMI cable from your computer to your TV. But again, since the service is free (and in beta) it's hard to complain too much.

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