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Cannes 2013: Only God Forgives Initial Reaction
Cannes 2013: Only God Forgives Initial Reaction
Nicolas Winding Refn's new film divides the critics

22 May 2013  |  Written by Damon Wise  

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only god forgives cannes reaction review
 
Nicolas Winding Refn's Only God Forgives arrived at the festival with a lot of expectations: reteaming the director with actor Ryan Gosling, many assumed it would be a sequel of sorts to their 2010 hit Drive. Unfortunately, many of those looking forward to the movie aren't exactly keen followers of the Danish auteur and were disappointed by this lurid, atmospheric drama. For those familiar with Refn's more experimental work – 2003's Fear X and 2009's Valhalla Rising in particular – this may well turn out to be one of his most distinctive works.
 
Set in Bangkok, the film stars Ryan Gosling (in a role originally to be played by Luke Evans) as Julian, a British-American ex-pat now living in Bangkok, where he manages a boxing club. The club is a front for a drug-smuggling ring, dealing in heroin and cocaine, and is overseen by Julian's older brother Billy (Tom Burke). We don't get to see that much of Billy before he decides to “visit the devil”, which involves picking up a teenager hooker and brutally murdering her. At the crime scene, the police arrive and allow the victim's father to take his revenge on Billy, almost literally beating him to a pulp. Julian spares the man, but the arrival of his mother Crystal (Kristen Scott-Thomas) kickstarts a cycle of vengeance that soon spins bloodily out of control.
 
Programmed for an 8.30am start, Refn's film would have benefited from a later slot, being a hellish, dreamlike vision of purgatory that works better as an immersive experience than a narrative. All performances are minimal and stylised, with a heavy use of red that excludes almost every other colour in the spectrum.
 
Larry Smith's cinematography is superb, and his crisp, sometimes hallucinatory visuals are complimented by Cliff Martinez's thrumming score, which neatly fuses Thai instruments and local ballads to create an otherworldly fusion. The story itself is spare and simple, a platform for some very extreme and inventive violence. But the curious, ethereal mood ensures that nothing is especially sadistic or shocking, rather Only God Forgives is about violence in the way that Drive was about driving: both films are really an reflection of a mental state, only this time the hero is at the mercy of a higher being and has no hope of redemption.  

The US gets this Only God Forgives on July 19, but we’re going to have to be a little bit patient as British cinemagoers will have to wait until August 2.


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Your Comments

Very excited
I'm really looking forward to this - I love Valhalla Rising and while I liked Drive a lot, I'm still all about the weird male art house hellscapes. More

Posted by callaghan_h at 23:20 on 22 May 2013 | Report This Post

Only Good Forgives
Maybe now everyone will begin to realise that 'Drive' was really a bag of sh!te too! More

Posted by Bobby TwoTimes at 16:02 on 22 May 2013 | Report This Post

Stay weird, Nicolas. Don't go mainstream.
I was sick in my mouth a little bit it was being mooted that NWR could do Logan's Run, so I'm over the moon that he's retained his art-house ways for this. Looking forward to it even more now! More

Posted by Nicky C at 14:04 on 22 May 2013 | Report This Post

I assume it will be as over rated as Drive was... More

Posted by dragon_irl at 13:50 on 22 May 2013 | Report This Post

Absolutely can not wait for this. More

Posted by Coyleone at 12:42 on 22 May 2013 | Report This Post

Valhalla rising meets Drive - What's not to like?
I loved Valhalla rising. The tone, cinematography, soundtrack -EVERYTHING- were amazing! Drive was really good, but not a patch. I like the cast for this. Can't wait!!! More

Posted by morphie at 12:20 on 22 May 2013 | Report This Post

I assume it will be as over rated as Drive was... More

Posted by dragon_irl at 11:08 on 22 May 2013 | Report This Post


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