Winding Refn’s follow-up to Drive definitely excites.
Danish director Winding Refn teaming up again with Ryan Gosling after Drive in an over-stylised action flick set in Thailand sounds promising. It is beautifully shot with impressive set design, a hellish feel to the lighting, existential angst simmering through the images. But something is off, starting with the lead, Julian, played by an almost apathetic Gosling.
Julian is scared, and even though he’s a drug dealer and owns a boxing outfit, he can’t fight. The story is very sparse: Julian’s brother Billy (Tom Burke) rapes and murders an underage girl and is killed in return by her father. Time for revenge, says mother (Kristin Scott Thomas), who bullies Julian into a path loaded with graphic violence, arms cut off, eyes and ears pierced…
A masochistic fetish fantasy in homage to Dalí, Buñuel, Lynch and Carax, the movie has a hypnotic quality and a great soundtrack by Cliff Martinez. Part of its appeal lies within this raw nature. Also, the fact that Refn didn’t try to copy-paste the slick 1980s impression of Drive, and that he reduced the story even more, is pretty bold.
Only God Forgives | Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn (France, Thailand, USA, Sweden 2013) with Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas. Starts July 18
Originally published in Issue #118, July/August 2013.