Wednesday, December 11, 2013

REVIEW: Only God Forgives (2013)

The slogan “art is supposed to make you think” is the doctrine that in part what makes a work of art good or worthwhile is its underlining of some social problem. We are stimulated to think about the problem, to recognize its ubiquity in contemporary society and the harsh effects it has on people. We recognize that some people’s enjoyment is bought at the price of other people’s unmerited suffering. In this lies the emotional experience provoked by the work, an experience involving sympathy for or empathy with others. Perhaps we are, thereby, stimulated to do something about the social problem to which the piece refers.

Such a process is never imbued with attractive values however, and thus to many will appear dull, slow, empty and devoid of an actual story. After all, with distributors charging more than ever a premium for an evening's worth of strong sensory  experiences, shouldn't we be gratified with a few well placed money shots complete with pyrotechnics and some cooler-than-McQueen soundtrack? We have enough depressing matters as it is to deal with in a work week, we deserve an outlet of pure entertainment that won't remind us once again of just how f*cked-up our world has become.

I will not pretend to understand any of the insanity that is Only God Forgives. If Drive was director Refn's answer to The Fast and the Furious, than OGF is an enigmatic response to Tarantino and his revival of the Revenge genre. It is at the core a psychoanalyst's wet dream rolled in Oriental spirituality wrapped around an advisory travelogue. It offers 15-minutes worth of storytelling stretched with non-stop staring contests between the principals (Ryan Gossling has a thouroughly-counted 22 lines in the entire run of the film) and admitedly gorgeous shots of cinematography. And some Inception-inspired baseline music that carries along one imagery within the next. If only someone could expplain to me the deeper implications of Karaoke Night, than I feel my ability to appreciate would greatly improve. Or at least I'd know why I felt it so strangely frightening.

I'm TELLING you, my name is NOT Dinah Lohan!

Gossling, in replacement of original star Luke Evans after that one left, plays the lower end of two drug-smuggling brothers who must satisfy their crime-lord mother's need for retribution when the older sibbling is -quite gruesomly-  dispatched. "He raped and killed a 14 year-old girl" he explains to her as the reasons behind his murder, to which she simply scuffs "He must've had his reasons". Kristin Scott-Thomas, cast spectacularly against type as a Joan Rivers-meets-Nurse Ractched queen of all bitches, walks all over whomever dares try to share her spotlight. As she induces the "Mother" of all Oedipus complexes (she litterally had her son kill his own father...), so does she meet one of the more jaw-dropping ends of all time. Cast as their tormentor, the chill-inducing Vithaya Pansringarm is a name I can't pronounce but will nevertheless keep on my watchlist for sure. He--Friggin-Creeps-Me-Out.

Only God Forgives is an uncomfortable film to watch, with its gory violence and disturbingly slow imagery, but nonetheless a film impossible to dismiss and ignore once viewed. It will no-doubt polarize it's entire audience in complete opposite ends of the appreciation spectrum, and that in itself should be enough to be considered a movie of quality. If not one that can be dubbed "Good".

Final Word: 8.5/10