"Only God Forgives": Gosling Gets Thoughtful Hurtful in Refn's Latest

It's easy to imagine David Lynch feeling a little slighted by the dedication to Alejandro Jodorowsky at the end of Nicolas Winding Refn's Only God Forgives. Not that Refn doesn't owe a debt to Jodorowsky, but Only God Forgives has a dreamlike tone and an obsession with spooky hallways and mysterious doors the likes of which hasn't been seen since Lynch's mid-nineties high-water marks, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and Lost Highway. For that matter, the mainstream audiences that were famously alienated by Refn's previous picture Drive will be even more confounded by this one, which has a seemingly action-packed premise: Ryan Gosling shoots 'n' punches his way through Bangkok's criminal underworld to avenge the death of his brother, on orders from his crime-boss mother (Kristin Scott Thomas, relishing her stunningly potty-mouthed dialogue). Instead, it's a deeply meditative (some might say "masturbatory") art film punctuated by bursts of unpleasant sexuality and highly graphic violence — not even the fun kind of sex and violence! — plus no fewer than three karaoke scenes, and a pace that makes Drive look like The Fast and the Furious. None of which is a bad thing, and Only God Forgives is gorgeous to look at, but those viewers not on the film's wavelength may never forgive it.

 
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