I’m still not sold on Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives. I’m also not ready to throw in the towel. Not completely. Not yet. Yes, his most recent film Drive was a stylishly violent concoction, and that appears to be what Refn and Ryan Gosling are going for again in this neon-drenched vengeance tale. But the reviews out of Cannes where the movie has its debut … man, they were vicious. Just brutal. Could the movie be better than advertised. Of course, and the latest trailer – posted above via Empire – goes a long way toward telling me that Only God Forgives can’t be as bad as Cannes critics make it out to be.
Gosling plays the youngest son of a sadistic mother figure (played with campy ice by Kristin Scott Thomas), who is ordered on a mission of vengeance when a local crime boss (Vithaya Pansringarm) kills the woman’s oldest child. Good premise, and one that Gosling and Refn easily could sink their teeth into, right?
Except when the movie played in France, audiences booed (normal in Cannes) and the critics left Gosling looking like this:
Few journos on site were quite as scathing as Hollywood-Elsewhere curmudgeon Jeff Wells, who infamously wrote:
Movies really don’t get much worse than Nicholas Winding Refn‘s Only God Forgives. It’s a shit macho fantasy — hyperviolent, ethically repulsive, sad, nonsensical, deathly dull, snail-paced, idiotic, possibly woman-hating, visually suffocating, pretentious. I realize I sound like Rex Reed on one of his rants, but trust me, please — this is a defecation by an over-praised, over-indulged director who thinks anything he craps out is worthy of your time. I felt violated, shat upon, sedated, narcotized, appalled and bored stiff.
I want to say Wells was being harsh, but these sentiments were mirrored in other reviews. Maybe Refn made some changes? The way this new trailer is cut suggests a streamlined, attractive and menacing foreign thriller that bathes in the seedy underbelly of a criminal landscape … which Refn did with Drive. We’ll find out on July 19, when the movie starts rolling out into select markets. In the meantime, do the early reviews scare you off of Refn’s Only God Forgives? Or did you like his other films, from Bronson to Valhalla Rising? He does seem to be an acquired taste. But Gosling speaks his language. I wonder if his latest will talk to all of us.