‘Only God Forgives’ puts Ryan Gosling in the anti-’Drive’

Ryan Gosling is actually dragging a dude, off-screen, by his mouth in this scene from "Only God Forgives." Credit: TWC Radius
Ryan Gosling is actually dragging a dude, off-screen, by his mouth in this scene from “Only God Forgives.”
Credit: TWC Radius

‘Only God Forgives’
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas
Rating: R
3 (out of 5) Globes

With its hot pink title title fonts, lush synth score and disarming juxtapositions of extreme tenderness with ultraviolence, “Drive” is a highly pleasurable movie. There’s little that’s pleasurable about “Only God Forgives,” director Nicolas Winding Refn’s second film with Ryan Gosling. That’s not a knock. It’s by design. Their sophomore pairing is in part about the denial of satisfaction, not to mention a sluggish, hypnotic wallow in the lives of people whose desires are, to say the least, questionable.

Having played a badass so taciturn he was nearly robotic in “Drive,” Gosling is miraculously even more absent and immobile as Julian, a member of the Thai underworld who deals in boxing and drugs. Much as one can get any kind of read on him, it’s clear he doesn’t share the depravity of his even more connected brother (Tom Burke), who, clearly exhausted with normal transgressions, rapes and kills a sixteen year old girl. His pursuit for moral nadirs acts as commentary for films like this, which seek horrific acts to shock audiences.

But there’s no release. Like most of the violence, it’s off-screen. And it leads to a cycle of vengeance that brings forth both a fearsome police lieutenant (Vithaya Pansringarm), who’s fond of doing sinister karaoke, and Julian’s epithet-spouting, chain-smoking mom (Kristin Scott Thomas) to finish the job.

“God” finds Refn in the heavy style of his worst film, “Fear X,” which married an inane plot to imitations of Lynch and Kubrick. He bathes slow shots in crimson red, which wind up looking flat and artificial in HD video. Gosling does a lot of staring — in fact, he and Pansringarm seem to be in a fight for who can emote less. This eventually leads to an actual fist fight that again threatens the former’s face.

The plot, unlike “Fear X,” isn’t stupid, or not that stupid. It’s hellish, with one abuse after another. But there’s a sense of code among the characters, each one conflicting with the others. Julian, his mother and the lieutenant represent three, conflicting views on vengeance and violence, and the film watches as they bounce off eachother, till only one is left. This isn’t fun, nor should it be, and it sometimes goes too far. (A bit about Julian longing to return to the womb of his evil mother is hilariously literal.) If it continues to piss people off — and not just the regular Gosling fangirls, who will once again be put through the ringer — it at least, like its characters, has a sick kind of honor.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

MAP: New York City Street Closures August 22,…

The Percy Sutton Harlem 5K and NYC Family Health Walk-a-thon and Pakistan Day Parade and Fair will cause traffic delays and street closures in New York City this weekend. Plan…

International

U.N. nuclear inquiry on Iran seen making slow…

The U.N. nuclear watchdog appears to have made only limited progress so far in getting Iran to answer questions about its suspected atomic bomb research, diplomatic sources said on Friday,…

National

Violence-weary Missouri town sees second night of calm

By Nick Carey and Carey GillamFERGUSON Mo. (Reuters) - The violence-weary town of Ferguson, Missouri, saw a second straight evening of relative calm on Thursday…

National

Journalist James Foley's parents, after call with pope,…

The parents of James Foley, the American journalist killed by Islamic State militants in Iraq, on Friday called for prayer and support to free the remaining captives held by Islamic…

Television

Recap: 'The Knick,' Season 1, Episode 3, 'The…

The third episode of Steven Soderbergh's "The Knick" finds Dr. Thackery (Clive Owen) meeting an old flame and other characters embracing self-destruction.

Music

Webcast: Watch Polyphonic Spree live on Sunday Aug.…

Polyphonic Spree singer Tim DeLaughter sits with Metro Music Editor Pat Healy for a chat and then the big band performs live. It begins on Sunday at 9:30 pm

Movies

Matthew Weiner on directing 'Are You Here' and…

"Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner discusses his movie "Are You Here," his history writing comedy and the tiny movie he directed in 1996 you can't see.

Movies

Michael Chiklis on his football past and 'When…

Michael Chiklis remembers playing football in high school and how that prepped him to play a coach in "When the Game Stands Tall."

NFL

3 things we learned about the Giants in…

The Giants claimed the Snoopy trophy in a battle of MetLife Stadium tenants Friday night. But more importantly, the offense finally showed some life in…

NFL

3 things we learned about the Jets in…

The Jets lost the Snoopy Bowl, 35-24, to the Giants, losing the trophy and local bragging rights.

NFL

Fantasy football draft guide: How to draft your…

Many are wondering if we’re entering a new age in fantasy football drafting — one where running backs take a backseat.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Giants storylines to watch

The Giants have plenty to work on as they reach the dress rehearsal preseason game Friday night against the rival Jets.

Wellbeing

Asics is giving away free gear around NYC…

Asics wants to see you on the court - and in the stands for the U.S. Open, which begins Monday - by giving away free…

Sex

Big weddings may lead to long-term happiness

Dreaming of a big wedding? A new study indicates that the longer your guest list, the happier you’ll be in the long run. l A…

Sex

Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…

Wellbeing

Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…