Only God Forgives (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2013): Danmark, France, Thailand

Review By Kristoffer Kronander. Viewed on Netflix instant streaming.

For those of us that wanted a “Drive” sequel, there is little to gain from viewing “Only God Forgives” except Ryan Gosling and shocking violence. But Nicolas Winding Refn’s new film didn’t intend to fascinate the mainstream audience. It’s definite arthouse feeling and sparse dialogue can scare away many viewers from enjoying the experience, even though it’s beautiful cinematography and fascinating story is mesmerising.

When Julian’s (Ryan Gosling) scumbag brother Billy (Tom Burke) is brutally murdered, his life is turned around. Driven by his mother’s lust for revenge, Julian sets out to find the killer, an omnipotent gangster overlord. Set in the underworld of Bangkok, this film is hard-boiled, raw and feverish.

The plot of “Only God Forgives” isn’t told in anywhere near a normal way, whatever that means. It’s like some sort of twisted 90-minutes-long montage, fuelled by a compelling synth soundtrack and colourful neon lighting. Yet, if you aren’t bored by the slow progression of scenes, take the time and look deeper. There are several elements in this story that reflect a deeper meaning of justice and revenge.

Maybe the most interesting character, and best actor, of this film is Julian’s mother Crystal, played by Kristin Scott Thomas. Her relationship to her sons is seriously disturbing, reminiscent of Freud’s theories on the Oedipus complex. Ultimately, it is Crystal that initiates the conflict between Julian and Billy’s killer, and it is her that justice will prevail.

I would give “Only God Forgives” a high ranking just based upon it’s courageous attempt to create an artsy film in these times; there is nothing like right now. The cinematography, music and superb acting is of top quality, adding to the artistic merit of the film. However, at the end of the day I wouldn’t recommend this film to the majority of filmgoers.

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