Only God Forgives
dir-scr Nicolas Winding Refn
prd Lene Borglum, Sidonie Dumas, Vincent Maraval
with Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vithaya Pansringarm, Rhatha Phongam, Gordon Brown, Tom Burke, Sahajak Boonthanakit, Pitchawat Petchayahon, Charlie Ruedpokanon, Kovit Wattanakul, Wannisa Peungpa, Byron Gibson
release US 19.Jul.13, UK 2.Aug.13
13/Thailand Gaumont 1h30
Only God Forgives
Awkward night out: Phongam and Gosling

scottthomas burke windingrefn
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Only God Forgives Oozing with style and energy, this dark revenge thriller is like a blood-soaked fever dream as we follows its characters into a circular story that can't end happily. It's a gruelling film that gets deep under the skin with its emotional hooks, even if it's difficult to identify with anyone on-screen.

In Bangkok, Julian (Gosling) works for his older drug-dealing brother Billy (Burke), who goes off the rails and kills a teen prostitute. Detective Chang (Pansringarm) allows the girl's father (Wattanakul) to avenge her death, which comes at a price. So when Julian seeks his own revenge, he understands that Chang is the real villain. This isn't good enough for Julian's mother Crystal (Scott Thomas), who arrives to sort out the mess but only makes things worse. And now Julian, Chang and Crystal are caught in a spiral of deadly vengeance.

Winding Refn is clearly influenced by filmmakers like David Lynch and Gaspar Noe, soaking the film in lurid colours while using minimal dialog and ambiguous plotting. Precise camera movement obscures the obvious, urging us to get involved: we are viscerally thrown right in the middle, forced like Julian to work out what to do in an impossible situation. Remarkably, instead of being moralistic, this is challenging, provocative and deeply unsettling.

The actors play the characters without the need for words; we can read everything that's essential to know on their expressive faces. Gosling helps us understand that Julian isn't as ruthless as his brother or mother, and his compassion might be his undoing. Scott Thomas is a force of nature, blazing through each scene as Crystal refuses to let anyone else make a decision. And Pansringarm is a terrific foil, with his inexpressive face masking real cruelty, as well as a fondness for karaoke and his own protective parental streak.

The film is dark and moody, with a mythical tone that echoes in the absurdity of each scene as well as flickering dreams and premonitions. All of this is densely photographed by Larry Smith, with Cliff Martinez's pulsing electronic score adding to the eerie atmosphere. But under the surreal surface, the film's emotional undercurrents are what haunt us, vividly revealed in a twisted mother-son relationship that has an oddly bittersweet kick.

cert 18 themes, strong violence, language 18.Jul.13

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