Only God Forgives

So, having left the last pic without really feeling our Gosling needs were satisfied, we trundled on down to the Encino Laemmle to see Only God Forgives, Nicholas Winding Refn’s follow up to Drive. Though they are not related.

Though you couldn’t be blamed for thinking they might be, given the whole Ryan Gosling underworld thing.

On the other hand, that covers most of Ryan Gosling except Crazy, Stupid Love. (Wait, what did he do in that movie? Boost jewelry stores?)

I digress. However, that’s nothing compared to this movie. They’re calling it Lynchian, and I suppose there’s something to that. The Flower had a hard time following it. The Boy followed it all right but thought they overdid it with the artsy stuff.

I could see that, though I like that sort of thing. My reaction was more akin to my reaction to watching “The Evil Dead”. Parts of it you just think “Wait, are they serious?”

This is basically a tribute to Asian revenge flicks, as it concerns the Muay Thai-training Julian (Gosling) whose brother rapes (and possibly kills, I can’t recall) a girl, only to be killed by the girl’s father. The father, in turn, gets a visit from the otherwordly Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm, the priest in the last scene of The Hangover II) a detective (I guess) who extracts a penalty from the father as a reminder to the father that he has three other girls he has to take care of.

Life lessons are tough. Especially when you’re a parent.

That’s the set up. The movie starts in earnest when Julian’s insanely evil mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) shows up wanting the father dead, and expecting Julian to wreak havoc all around.

KST is worth the price of admission alone. I have to say. When she’s not threatening Julian with murder, she’s coming on to him or maybe just waxing nostalgic over the size of his late brother’s member. Julian hires his favorite hooker (the flawless Yayaying Rhatha Phongham) to play his girlfriend and the result is something like Wes Craven directing an episode of “Dynasty”.

This is all building up to a confrontation between Chang and Julian, though there’s no doubt how it’s going to turn out. The two are psychically linked, and the scene of their confrontation is played out in Julian’s head several times in the movie. To the point where it finally happens, you’re sort of not sure it actually happened this time.

Gorgeously shot, though about the 15th time someone was framed between a high vertical boundaries (doorway, long hall) I was kind of thinking “OK, I get it, I get it! We’re all…uh…squeezed? Between something? OK, I don’t get it, but enough already!”

Chang does Karaoke.

I don’t know. It meant something. He was kind of an angel. An angel of death.

He could draw a Thai “dha” (sword) from behind his back when clearly there was no sword in the previous scenes. (This is deliberate, not a continuity error, I have no doubt.) Also, he floats around (The Boy observed he did not swing his arms when he walked) with a couple of beat cops who watch him slice people up.

Well, look, the theater was so packed, the only three seats were in the first row, and they were not together. So this guy has some fans.

Leaving the theater, I noted that virtually all of them were 20-something males, with a few girlfriends thrown in here and there. (And treat yourself to the Lifetime channel, or whatever, for being such good girlfriends, ladies.)

I dunno. It’s self-consciously artsy. One thing about Lynch is that I never felt like he was trying to be weird. He just is. He’s trying to tell a story using the conventional trappings but it’s not the story indicated by those trappings. (Best illustrated by the “Who killed Laura Palmer?” craze of “Twin Peaks”, as if that was meant to be a murder mystery.)

I wouldn’t knock it. It’s short, it’s an interesting effort, it’s memorable. Was it entirely effective? Not for me, and certainly not for the kids.

Gosling himself? I dunno. This is a part that calls for a pretty tight lid on any emotions. So he does a lot of vacant staring.

But there it is. I don’t expect it to be a huge hit. This was, apparently, to meet some sort of requirement for award season. (I thought Oscar, but I also didn’t think Oscar’s requirements were anything other than “shown in a theater in L.A. in the year nominated”.)

It’s not a critical smash so I doubt it’s going to be up for much.

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