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Only God Forgives

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If you liked the stark, dialogue-light approach Nicholas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling took in ”Drive”, you’re going to love ”Only God Forgives”. Or at least appreciate it.

Two brothers (one of which is the sexily brooding Gosling), run a Thai boxing gym in contemporary Bangkok as a front for their criminal enterprise.

When his brother is bumped off in a revenge killing because of his taste for rough sex with underage prostitutes, the boys’ mother comes to town. Played with icy venom by Kristin Scott Thomas, Crystal’s purpose is to cajole Julian (Gosling) into finding and killing his brother’s murderer.

And the whole time, plainclothes cop Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm) is on the trail – a classic Man With No Name archetype with several bizarre character tics, including a complete lack of emotion and a penchant for dispatching bad guys with the short sword he carries on his back rather than arresting them.

Does Julian find his brother’s killer? Does Crystal leave Bangkok vindicated? Does Chang get his man? If you’re on the edge of your seat about any plot questions you’re in the wrong movie – this isn’t a thriller, so they’re mere details to convey Refn’s dark, twisted vision.

”Only God Forgives” is like the colour palette it makes use of – all dark rooms, thin, shadowy corridors with slow tracking shots, blood-red splashes of colour from single lamps in sharp corners. Along with the slowly pulsating soundtrack, it feels like a slasher movie at times, making you wonder if a maniac with a mask and knife is going to burst out of one of the seedy hotel rooms or streetside shops in the dark underbelly of Bangkok.

That’s especially the case because when the violence explodes from the screen it’s so sudden and brutal you might think you’re watching the inventive murder of a horny teenager from a Carpenter rip off.

The rest of the time it’s a cacophony of shadowed faces, sinister lighting, and the constant threat of violence and terror, as if Quentin Tarantino and David Lynch made a film together.

On top of so many Sexiest Man Alive lists and fodder for so much of the gossip press for young, intelligent women, Gosling would seem to be unmaking his image in Only God Forgives by teaming up with buddy Refn for a moody mindebender in love with the image and not so fussed with story. He’ll probably turn up in another high profile rom-com soon, but when even the pivotal moment in the movie – the fight scene between Julian and Chang – is a non-event, Only God Forgives is hard to really connect with.

Blu-ray : Some good extras on this fabbo looking/sounding disc, including interviews, a commentary and featurettes.

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About Drew Turney

An Australian-based film critic and celebrity interviewer now based in Los Angeles, California.
Author: Drew Turney
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