August 4, 2013

Only God Forgives

Nicolas Winding Refn, 2013


Set in Bangkok, Refn's followup to Drive once again features Ryan Gosling in the lead. Gosling plays Julian, gangster & fight club owner. Julian gets news that his brother Billy has been killed. Julian's mother arrives in Thailand eager for revenge, while the renegade cop who was responsible for the death is on their heels the entire time.

First off, it's a wonderfully shot film. In fact, there's not one bad shot in the entire picture. The glowing of red through the beginning, the scenes with the very neon-like aesthetic. It paints Bangkok in a way that's very much like the way Gaspar Noe painted Tokyo in Enter the Void. The stunning look of the Karaoke bars are similar to the scenes in Hanna where the villain is whistling the catchy "The Devil is in the Details. There's a disconcerting element to the streetscape, but it's very easy on the eyes.

The film combines the sudden disturbing elements one would come to expect from Refn along with some of the abstract characteristics of a David Lynch picture.  Refn always has a clever use of sound. The score to this film is much more immersed than the electro-pop soundtrack in Drive. There's certainly no Kavinsky to be heard here. Refn certainly finds new ways to end human lives. Refn works his craft as the body count rises.

Gosling's character Julian is quiet, reserved (surprised?). The lack of dialogue is very much similar to his role in Drive, but there's certainly some distinction here. Any heart that his character had in Drive is absent in this piece. Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm), the blade-wielding retired cop, could go down as one of the more memorable villains in cinema. His renegade-like attitude is very similar to fellow cop Stansfield (Gary Oldman) in Leon: The Professional. Both are cold and lack hesitation to slaughter at will. Both lack the moral structure one would expect from a man of the law. When you first see Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas), Julian's mother, it further constructs his past. And it ain't pretty. Her vitriolic tongue spits out whatever venom is on the surface and there's no hesitation. It's quite clear that the only affection she had was really spent on his brother Billy.

It's a controversial piece. Rumors of booing as Cannes started circulating, along with rumors of people vomiting during some of the scenes. Refn is a true auteur, unaffected by public opinion. He appeared to make a film here for himself, and you can come along for the ride but he doesn't care much if you enjoy it. There's something to this film. At times hard to watch, but for the right reasons. Some people may be hungry for more story, and it's a fair argument. While some of the moments are hard to watch, there's still a very adhesive quality to the film.

No comments:

Post a Comment