Ryan Gosling reunites with the director of the critically acclaimed "Drive" for the new thriller "Only God Forgives." Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman filed the following review for NY1.
"Only God Forgives" re-teams Ryan Gosling with director Nicolas Winding Refn, who made the acclaimed, ultra-violent art thriller "Drive" back in 2011. That movie seemed, mostly, to be taking place in the real world. "Only God Forgives," not so much. The new movie is a solemnly preposterous piece of designer revenge pulp, with actors who stand around bathed in red and blue light in between scenes of mayhem.
One of the main characters is a retired Bangkok police officer named Chang, played by Vithaya Pansringarm, who somehow manages to scowl with displeasure and look amused at the same time. Chang slashes people's limbs off with a samurai sword, then retreats to a karaoke nightclub out of a David Lynch film, where he faces an inert audience as he sings lonely songs of lost love. How crazy-cool!
"Only God Forgives doesn't have a script so much as a body count. Its characters, even the one played by Gosling (his name is Julian), don't pretend to be anything more than one-note abstractions. Julian's brother kills a prostitute, and is then murdered for the crime, at which point his dragon-lady mother, Crystal, shows up. She's played by Kristin Scott Thomas in thick wavy blonde hair that looks like she stole it off of Donatella Versace, though Scott Thomas' acting makes Donatella Versace look relaxed.
In "Only God Forgives," the seedy, neon-lit Bangkok streets are depicted as a place of depravity and no mercy, but also fascist control, in which Chang must restore order by taking vengeance on Crystal's war of vengeance. Got it?
What this comes down to is lots of overripe maiming and execution, all accompanied by satanic synth-pop. "Only God Forgives" comes on as a thriller, but it's really just a horror film dressed up in swank and nonsense.