Monday, 14 April 2014

Only God Forgives [2013]

A visually gorgeous film; and no I don't mean because Mr Adolescent Goose stars as lead role (though we all know how he seems to get the gaggle swooning). Nicolas Winding Refn, the director of Drive (as mentioned in the poster above) presents this slowly unfurling Pantone advert, a 'must see' for any fan-boys (or girls) of expressive cinematography.

I acquired this on Blu-Ray over the Christmas period and took my time arriving at its menu screen. A lingering desire to view the follow up to Drive was obstructed by some slightly confused and disappointed reactions from my usual social circles. My aversion to 'hype' often affects my approach in such circumstances, causing a sense of affinity before I have even become acquainted; a preference for enjoying something others around me haven't. This can make it feel all the more an individual and unshared experience; something that can be equally as fulfilling as sharing undoubtedly is.

Despite reclining in comfort, bathed in early afternoon sunlight during a premature Spring-like day, prepared to like the forth-coming attraction, I can't ignore some of the curiosities that followed. First notable point would be regarding Ryan Gosling. He is known for his emotionally dysfunctional, brooding roles (aka a broken heart-throb), which in a strange sort of way he continues to play here, but I have not seen him quite so mute since Lars And The Real Girl (which I loved). Without the where-with-all to begin a Timex measurement I estimated that approximately half an hour had elapsed before a word was spoken by the face of the picture (this included moments in which conversation was directed toward him, met blankly). With Lars Lindstrom, it was very quickly obvious as to the reason for his reluctance of voice. As the surname-less Julian, a fight school owner/trainer/promoter/financier (not clearly defined in the beginning) there lies a certain mystery surrounding the voiceless, slowly moving, shade dwelling character.

Though this could be considered a criticism, it did add a character dimension that may have been lost in dialogue. Julian's silence spurred this thought: 'This guy seems deeply fucked up. Borderline psychotic (perhaps a bit like his role in Drive). Why is he so messed up? And why is he in Bangkok anyway?'. The plot does begin to reveal answers. Much in the same way I see old films (especially those B-movie/exploitation movie types), this piece on the face of things, maintains a very basic plot (basic in comparison to some of the complex, twisting plots we are used to in cinema and, more so now, in the box set series) and silently introduces sub plots through crystal clear, dream-like visual sequences, heavily exploiting the potential beauty and foreign lighting of inner city Thailand.

[SPOILER ALERT] I'm calling this a 'spoiler' because it does pretty much describe all you need to know about the theme and direction of this movie, but is quoted directly from IMDB as the plot synopsis:

"Julian, a drug-smuggler thriving in Bangkok's criminal underworld, sees his life get even more complicated when his mother compels him to find and kill whoever is responsible for his brother's recent death."

There really isn't much more to add to the overall plot other than that there is an equally crazy, Bangkok detective who carries a short, sharp and swift pendulum of justice, equipped upon such time as he identifies the focus of his investigations. He is a man of seemingly inconspicuous disposition yet, from the moment of his intense karaoke rendition, it becomes clear as to his underplayed, creepiness.

Kristin Scott Thomas is transformed as Crystal, Julian's vile and evil mother. She is immediately detestable upon arrival at a hotel lobby where her demise will ultimately play out; at the same time being the very sort of desirable and sexy that I am slightly embarrassed to admit to noticing. Her introduction goes some way toward explaining the unusual traits displayed by Julian who begins to appear reminiscent of an adolescent in a black and white NSPCC advert.

The trailer, when it was first leaked to social media and the world wide inter-webs, implied Julian was a resilient and physical guy, asking 'wanna fight?' and showing a clip of him dragging a blood-stained Thai man down a corridor by his upper jaw. All very macho and brutal. Amusingly and unexpectedly (even though another leaked poster showed a baby goose post altercation with a nasty fox) he really cannot fight. I found this refreshing. It would be all too easy for your A-list star to be a tough cookie as well as doughy-eyed, but I greatly appreciated his ineptly wild swinging before being pummelled in front of his expensive oriental beauty. Each time he stumbled forward, bravely, with the intent to out-wit his more composed and assured opponent; each time caught off balance and relegated to his own personal space to quietly taste his own DNA.

Only God Forgives reads like a Greek myth or a classical fable. Essentially it deals with the concerns of those seeking revenge, providing glimpses of how it scars an individual, fuels their acts and contributes to their denouement. The journey of revenge, fraught with opposition and consequence; played out like an artsy film noir only in 24-bit and lit to reflect a hidden depth of person.

I understand why those near and dear were despondent. You go to the cinema to see the follow up movie by the director of Drive and you get a picture that wouldn't be out of place in a display hall of Tate Modern. You could analyse it to death, searching for hidden meanings, translate visuals and still never fully appreciate the potential depth. But at the surface of this movie, and as I opened with, it is really beautiful; so watch it for that if not for the mere fact that Ryan 'Sexiest Man 2011' Gosling is in it.


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