|Director||Nicolas Winding Refn|
|Starring||Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott-Thomas, Vithaya Pansringarm|
|Release||19 JUL (US) 2 AUG (UK) Certificate 18|
But Nicolas Winding Refn isn't interested in making a revenge thriller. He's interested in creating an impossibly stylised dreamworld, a fucked-up headspace stuffed with motifs and metaphors, methodically rendered in achingly gorgeous compositions and clinical tracking shots and liberally splashed with body horror. If Hitchcock, Kubrick and Cronenberg went on a jolly to Bangkok, this would be their holiday video. Although Refn's Bangkok doesn't really feel like Bangkok (there isn't a single Australian tourist for a start): he uses the city as a symbol of unfamiliarity, a place where he can use strange customs and traditions to unsettle and discomfort. Is all that karaoke representative of some ethereal plane occupied by merciless gods, or is it just what Thai people do to relax after a hard day's violent retribution?
Recurring images pepper Only God Forgives with metronomic regularity. The allegory isn't subtle, nor is it 100% successful: Gosling is forever staring with childlike confusion at his own clenched fists and sinewy forearms, and frequently stands at (or is framed in) mysterious doorways, terrified to enter. By the time his mother casually belittles him for the insubstantial size of his todger, any doubts about his issues and their origins are kickboxed out of the window. It's a volley of symbolism that threatens to overwhelm, but it all just looks and sounds SO FUCKING AMAZING that any danger of overkill is swept aside.
Which brings us to the contributions of Only God Forgives' real stars, cinematographer Larry Smith and composer Cliff Martinez. Smith's lighting and compositions lend the film its otherworldliness in a way that recalls his work on Eyes Wide Shut, and it's impossible to tear your gaze away even when Chang is up to all sorts of unpleasantness with a variety of spiky objects. Meanwhile Martinez's score, working in perfect symbiosis with Smith's visuals, also evokes Kubrick in places; the ghost of György Ligeti haunts proceedings like a malevolent spectre.
Deliciously original and quite, quite mad, Only God Forgives isn't just a treat for the eye and earballs but is also a mind-bending, thought-provoking piece of work which towers over this summer's Hollywood enormogasms like a Gosling-shaped Jaeger. It might not be what you were expecting, but your expectations are about to get punched in the face. Wanna fight?