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Review: Only God Forgives
Released: August 2, 2013
Reviewed by: Chris Patmore
Nicolas Winding Refn has certainly built himself a solid reputation as a director, from the Pusher trilogy through to Bronson and the critically acclaimed hit Drive. His style has reached the elevated ‘esque’ status, which could mean it is either unique or predictable. His latest film, Only God Forgives, has some of the hallmarks of a Refn movie but more closely resembles the bastard offspring of Apichatpong Weerasethakul (or maybe Wong Kar Wai) and Tarantino, except, where Tarantino fills his movies with the dialogue of the conversations people have between those usually shown on screen, Winding Refn fills his with the long pauses between conversations. That is, apart from the foul-mouthed matriarch played by Kristen Scott Thomas, who delivers lines that Tarantino would have been proud to have written. In fact, it would be safe to say that the best, and possibly only, reason to watch this film is for Kristen’s performance, which is totally against type. Ryan Gosling is at his moody, glowering best as he looks to revenge his brother’s death at the hands of vengeful Thai policeman played with quiet intensity by Vithaya Pansringarm.
Despite Winding Refn’s best intentions to create an homage to the Asian revenge genre, it feels more like it was made by someone who went to Bangkok, sampled way too much of the local products and services, and convinced himself he was making something of great cultural importance when it is a piece of massive self indulgence that relies too heavily on the shock value of the violence, and is only saved by the work of some of his cast and crew.
As with many Asian films of the revenge genre, it is an acquired taste that, like the tired old Marmite analogy, you will either love or hate.