Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling follow up their 2011 hit Drive with Only God Forgives, a neon nightmare taking place on the streets of Bangkok.
The movie opened to largely negative reviews at the Cannes film festival where critics hailed it as hollow and a victory of style over substance. Being a huge fan of Refn this only fuelled my desire for the movie. Just how far off the mark could this movie actually be? I’ve liked all of Refn’s works to date and whilst his occasionally perverse taste for ultra violence may sicken some it intrigues me.
So here’s the basic plot: Julain (Gosling) is a drug smuggler in Bangkok who manages a Thai boxing club as his legitimate job, one night after getting drunk and raping and killing a young girl Julian’s brother is brutally murdered by the girl’s father. Enter Kristin Scott Thomas playing Julian’s mom; a woman hell bent on finding the people responsible for her son’s murder and making them pay for their actions.
The good news is that the movie is as beautifully shot as you would expect a Refn movie to be. The streets of Bangkok have never felt so dirty whilst a powerful score from Chris Martinez only fuels the atmosphere.
Unfortunately this is where the good news stops. The movie, a sickening and often perverse look at the underworld is nothing more than a sequence of sickening event masquerading itself as some sort of pseudo intellectual masterpiece.
The film attempts touching on deeper issues but they are never quite looked at enough; a biblical tone runs through out which creates a mild interest whilst the relationship between Julian, his mother and his dead brother gives psychoanalysts something to dribble over.
The films biggest issue is Refn, who in trying to make his masterpiece as created a film that feels almost like a parody of a Refn film. One that spends so long wondering down dark corridors and gazing it fails to hold any sort of interest at all.
I think the worst insult I can pay this movie is that it is just flat out dull.
I really wanted to like this film, perhaps God forgives but I can’t.