Film review: Only God Forgives (6 out of 10)

After a summer of super heroes, giant robots, aliens and rampaging zombies the idea was to watch something a bit more down to earth.

Tuesday, 6th August 2013, 9:24 am
Ryan Gosling in Only God Forgives
Ryan Gosling in Only God Forgives

However, with director Nicolas Winding Refn this was always going to be unlikely.

With Refn’s work you really don’t know what you will get on screen. It could be a superb action thriller such as Drive or a bonkers movie such as Valhalla Rising.

His latest effort definitely falls in the latter camp, with a very basic plot, lots of silent starring and... singing.

The film split the critics at the recent Cannes Festival, with some cheering and some booing during the credits.

The sparse audience at the screening I was at last night had similar thoughts, with a few walking out early on.

The film was heralded as being very violent and while there are some unpleasant scenes, I’ve seen worse in mainstream movies. Mind you, the sound effects are pretty dramatic.

The plot sees Bangkok based drug smuggler Julian (Ryan Gosling) looking to avenge the violent murder of his brother. However, Julian has to be spurred on by his mother Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas), a drug baroness with no redeeming factors whatsoever.

Throw into the mix retired policeman Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm) who seems to be some sort of sword-wielding supernatural being who enjoys singing in a club after a killing and you have 90 minutes of confusion.

This is a movie to be admired rather than enjoyed. Refn’s direction is stunning, with some superbly framed shots and use of colour. It’s the sort of film that students will happily study and analyse.

Gosling is at his moody best - in fact he only has one expression in this film, glum. But his screen prescence is undeniable.

Scott Thomas is excellent, and uses some dramatic face-changing prosthetics to create this harsh and thoroughly unpleasant character.

While most people will only catch this on DVD or down the line on TV, the big screen shows off the director’s skill and techniques superbly.

Final word for the soundtrack which is one of the best this year and which really enhances the movie.

Film details: Only God Forgives (18) 90mins

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vithaya Pansringarm

Screening courtesy of Cineworld Crawley

Steve Payne