Julian (Ryan Gosling) is a drug smuggler who runs a boxing club in Bangkok with his psychotic and violent brother Billy (Tom Burke). When Billy is murdered, Julian’s controlling mother, Crystal (Kristen Scott Thomas), flies to Bangkok in order to get revenge on the people his killed his first-born son. A sword-wielding vigilante cop named Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm), who might be involved with in Billy’s death, finds his life in danger and must serve his own brand of justice against the people who want him dead.
Just like in “Drive,” Gosling lets his facial expressions speak louder than his words as he does well showing his psychological state-of-mind without the use of a vast amount of dialogue. On the opposite of the spectrum, Thomas is venomous as she seems like she is having a good time playing Julian’s monstrous mother, who insults his son in front of his date in the most awkward mdinner conversation to ever been on fil,. Pansringarm emanates a mysterious vibe as Chang by portraying him as a man who is considered to be a legendary, but stoic warrior who loves karaoke.
The dialogue and plot takes a backseat to Refn’s directorial style in order to create this unique, but simple story about revenge. There is also some strong Oedipal subtext in this film that suggest why Julian is unable to break the spell that his mother has on him. To some critics, his movies can resemble more like a full-motion artistic painting than a narrative-driven film. However, Refn’s ability as a filmmaker shouldn’t be hinder because of that notion. He knows what he doing behind the camera, which allows him to create a movie that is bizarre, dreamy and fascinating experience to behold.
The squeamish should be warned that the violence in “Only God Forgives” makes the violence in “Drive” look like a Disney movie. Refn uses violence like a painter uses paint to create a piece of work. He is at his best like a when it comes to creating some of the most violent scenes on the silver screen including a torturous sequence in this film where Chang uses large hairpin needles to get some vital information.
Filmed by cinematographer Larry Smith (“Eyes Wide Shut”), the movie takes advantage of the city’s different and shady locales in order to create a beautiful-looking film that is mostly bathed in neon-lit colors and dark shadows. Cliff Martinez’s hypnotic score is as fantastic as it was on “Drive” with his music setting the mood for this dark and dreary movie.
“Only God Forgives” is not only a beautiful movie aesthetically, but it is also a hypnotic and mesmerizing film that allows Refn uses violence to help craft his latest artistic creation.
“Only God Forgives” is now playing exclusively at the Miami Beach Cinematheque. Click here for showtimes.