Friday, July 19, 2013

Only God Forgives Movie Review

Kristin Scott Thomas stars in Only God Forgives

Time to Meet the Devil

Leave it to Nicolas Winding Refn to totally confound a film critic, even one as savvy and modest as yours truly. I went into Only God Forgives wanting to love it, hoping for another Drive... and while there are moments to cherish, they're mostly offset by amateurish mistakes (seemingly done on purpose.) In other words, vintage Refn.

Rotten Tomatoes Plot: Julian (Ryan Gosling), a respected figure in the criminal underworld of Bangkok, runs a Thai boxing club and smuggling ring with his brother Billy. Billy is suddenly murdered and their crime lord matriarch, Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas) arrives from London to bring back the body. When Jenna forces Julian to settle the score with his brother's killers, Julian finds himself in the ultimate showdown.

What’s Best: Thomas steals the show as Julian's overly-everything mother. Whether she's defending her dead son's actions (murdering a 16-year-old prostitute) 'I'm sure he had his reasons,' or comparing her children's appendages... "Billy's was enormous. How can you compete with that?" Crystal commands your attention every moment she's on screen.

Refn shines with drop-dead gorgeous backdrops and an irreverent refusal to give his audience what they expect/want. Only God Forgives ditches the narrative take that made Bronson and Drive so appealing; but quiet scenes such as Julian trailing Lt. Chang through the streets of Bangkok are close to hypnotic... especially when combined with Cliff Martinez's compelling soundtrack.

What’s Not: I suppose Refn defends it as being insightfully creative, but what gives with not one, not two but three karaoke performances by the film's angel of death (a stoic Vithaya Pansringarm?) It's novel for about five seconds, plain dumb thereafter. In addition, Refn's characters spend more time and energy posing for the camera than doing or (more importantly) saying anything. Only God Forgives is a collection of scenes, most beautifully shot... but does that make an effective movie? I think not.

Best Line: Crystal dazzles with her insensitive, 'How many cocks can you entertain with that cute little cum dumpster of yours?' To her son's girlfriend. No wonder Julian keeps quiet.

Overall: 50/50. I'm split between loving parts of Only God Forgives, and hating the rest of it. Oddly enough, I wouldn't be surprised if that was Refn's intention. Most of the violence is assumed and off-camera, but there's at least one scene where Chang tortures one of Julian's associates that definitely gets its point across. If not for Thomas' much-needed infusion of sadism & sass, Refn's film might prove unwatchable, despite several positive moments. I still can't wait to see it again, even after leaving the theater in disappointment the first time around. Prepare yourselves for hidden meanings, raunchy language 'I want to fu*k a 14-year-old. You got a daughter? Bring her in,' and plenty of posing.

Grade: B-