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Only God Forgives

Movie Details

Only God Forgives
  • Genre: Drama, Suspense/Thriller
  • Release Date: 2013-07-19 Limited
  • Running Time: 90 min.
  • Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
  • Cast: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Tom Burke, Yayaying, Vithaya Pansringarm, Byron Gibson, Gordon Brown, Sahajak Boonthanakit, Joe Cummings, Charlie Ruedpokanon
  • Writer: Nicolas Winding Refn
  • Distributor: Radius-TWC

Incest, eyeball-gouging, interior decorating: If Only God Forgives is any indication, writer-director Nicolas Winding Refn is a man of many interests. The movie, in which Ryan Gosling plays an American drug-smuggler living the lowlife in Bangkok, is many things-- unhinged yet restrained, arty yet cheesy-- but it's never boring. And if it's a disappointment after Refn's viscerally elegant Drive, it at least bobs along on a bloody current of silliness. You may not think you’re up for seeing a rib cage split open like a rack of lamb, but when it's this well art-directed, what the hell? He opens with a kickboxing match that looks not quite legit, and introduces two brothers who are somehow involved in this low-down, sweaty universe: We can see that Billy (Tom Burke) is bad news, but Gosling's Julian has principles. After Billy dies, enraged mama bird Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas) flies in from God knows where, ordering Julian to put things right by avenging his brother's death. Did I mention that she greets him with a not exactly momlike below-the-belt hug? But it's shot from a really, really artful angle. Refn gives Crystal lots of sass-mouth dialogue, including a compare-and-contrast of her sons' privates. The actors do as they're told, standing in the right place at the right time, delivering even the most inane, tongue-twisting lines as if they'd dutifully rehearsed them, which they probably did. Refn may be taking himself too seriously or not taking anything seriously enough-- it's hard to tell.

Stephanie Zacharek

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