I find Director Nicholas Winding Refn’s films compelling especially his movies DRIVE and BRONSON, but if I’m to be completely honest, ONLY GOD FORGIVES is listless, dull and overindulgent. 

The best way to describe it would be if David Lynch and Michael Mann made a film together and handed the footage over to Terrence Malick to edit. Of course, that actually sounds like it would birth a fascinating movie experience. Sadly, it doesn’t. 

The plot couldn’t be more simplistic: Julian (Ryan Gosling) is apparently a drug smuggler in Bangkok along with his brother Billy (Tom Burke). For some unknown reason, Billy murders a 15-year-old prostitute and Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm), the local law enforcement officer allows the girl’s father to kill Billy. Julian’s crime boss mother Crystal (Kristen Scott Thomas) arrives from London and demands that Julian help her get revenge for Billy’s death. Then some people die. 

Once again, this sounds much more interesting than it actually is. Most of the film is a lot of slow moving or slow motion sequences of people watching other people with a few bursts of violence. At less than an hour and a half long, it feels like double that with the thin plot stretched to breaking. 

I give the film credit for some gorgeous cinematography and lighting, but that’s all that there is really. Other than Kristen Scott Thomas’ over the top portrayal of the unhinged black widow-esqueCrystal, everyone else seems to be near comatose as if they’ve been instructed to show no emotions at all. 

I know there is a place in cinema for films with a hypnotic and dreamlike aesthetic, but there is a big difference between high art and self-indulgent masturbation.

JANUARY 4, 2014


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