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Only God Forgives


Stars: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vithaya Pansringarm, Rhatha Phongam, Gordon Brown, Tom Burke

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

After their extraordinary collaboration on Drive, one might have hoped for much with the reunion of director Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling.

Sadly, this self-indulgent anaesthetic dashed all hopes, simply showcasing Gosling in a series of interestingly lit (cinematography by Larry Smith) but largely lifeless poses that mostly resemble a photo-shoot rather than an involving performance. In fairness, I should perhaps add that he probably took the easiest way out in the face of Refn’s sad screenplay.

Bangkok (giving far and away the most interesting performance in the film) is the gaudy setting. There Gosling runs a boxing club as a cover for his drugs operation until everything goes pomegranate-shaped when his brother murders a prostitute. Enter Kristin Scott Thomas who, sporting a blonde wig and giving a performance that would be considered over-the-top in a provincial pantomime, collects her son’s body and orders Gosling to find the killers and “raise hell”.

I apologise if I have made the film seem interesting. It isn’t. Over-directed and underwritten, ill-characterised and acted to match, the film is yet another kick to the crotch of the auteur theory. Action, locations and lurid lighting are not really enough to make a good movie.

Let’s hope that if Refn and Gosling reunite, the result will be more Drive than this unforgiveable time-waster.

(There's one mildly interesting aspect - the number of productions companies collaborating to bring the film to the screen. The credits read a "Gaumont, Wild Bunch, Wild Side presentation, in association with Le Pacte, of a Space Rocket Nation, Motel Movies Prods. production, in association with Bold Films, in co-production with Film I Vast, DR v/Filmklubben, Nordisk Film Shortcut A/S, with the support of Danish Film Institute, Nordisk Film & TV Fond, Media Programme of the European Union).

Alan Frank

France/Thailand/USA/Sweden 2013. UK Distributor: Lionsgate. Colour.
90 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 18.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 3, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 3, Swearing 2.

Review date: 02 Aug 2013