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Only God Forgives

Leonard Maltin By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin July 19, 2013 at 12:01AM

Some people value style over content; I prefer a melding of the two, which is why I found Nicolas Winding Refn’s "Drive" so irritating and pretentious.
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PHOTO COURTESY OF RADIUS-TWC

Some people value style over content; I prefer a melding of the two, which is why I found Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive so irritating and pretentious. But it could pass itself off as a Disney movie compared to his newest effort, Only God Forgives. The director also wrote this heavy-handed revenge melodrama (or is it a bone-dry comedy?) set in Bangkok.

Ryan Gosling, instructed again to maintain a poker face from start to finish, plays a man who traffics in drugs. His brother’s murder arouses the ire of two formidable figures: a local policeman who doesn’t hesitate to use a massive sword that he carries on his person—after which he relaxes by singing in karaoke bars—and Gosling’s mother, played by Kristin Scott Thomas, whose manner (and foul mouth) are almost as lethal as that polished steel weapon. It’s always interesting to watch this talented actress flex her muscles (here, playing a cold-hearted American) but I’m sorry it’s in such a tiresome movie.

Everything about Only God Forgives is shrouded in mood lighting and an air of portent. There is no particular suspense, as we are never in doubt that the policeman is going to use his sword to eviscerate the people who get in his way. It’s only a question of when and where the violence will occur.

As an exercise in high style, I suppose Only God Forgives has its merits. If one has a perverse sense of humor, I suppose its overall absurdity might score a few points. I found nothing of value here.

This article is related to: Film Reviews, Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Nicolas Winding Refn, Only God Forgives