Only God Forgives

**

Reviewed by: Richard Mowe

"While you can admire the execution there is little here to engage the intellect as one bloody set-piece moves on to the next."

Ryan Gosling's second film with Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn is dedicated to that auteur of the absurd Alejandro Jodorowsky (whose new film La Danza De La Realidad also premiered in Cannes).

Refn clearly is a fan because the Danish director’s hotly anticipated Competition contender was destined to be like a Jodorowsky film – like a Thai revenge Western set in Bangkok and full of extreme violence and Freudian psychology.

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There’s not much of a story and the dialogue is minimal – it is more about brooding atmosphere and buckets of blood. Gosling plays Julian, a drug dealer running a gym. When his brother is murdered by a crime boss (Vithaya Pansringarm) he opts not to exact a terrible revenge.

This prompts his overbearing mother, played by a Phaedra-esque Kristin Scott Thomas in a long blonde wig, to fly in to town to sort him out. Things start to get very Oedipal.

It’s highly stylised, walking a tightrope between mysticism and reality. Refn appears to be returning not to Drive and its revving cars but to his earlier roots with the Pusher trilogy.

There is a mood of heightened reality in which body parts receive the chop with alacrity. The crime boss completes his spree of violence by singing a karaoke number.

Refn has said he wanted the film to be about “the clash between a man who thinks he’s God and a man who’s losing his belief in God.”

While you can admire the execution there is little here to engage the intellect as one bloody set-piece moves on to the next. The actors go through their paces like pawns with Gosling's character practically monosyllabic. Perhaps it all makes sense to Refn.

The press screening this morning (22 May) was greeted with a chorus of boos and cheers (with the former winning out by a margin).

Reviewed on: 22 May 2013
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Only God Forgives packshot
A drug smuggler in Bangkok is charged by his mother with finding and killing whoever killed his brother.
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Read more Only God Forgives reviews:

Robert Munro *****

Festivals:

Cannes 2013

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Drive
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