Ryan Gosling stars in the Cannes nominated film, ‘Only God Forgives’ creating a tremor of apprehension in Hollywood and across the nation at the portrayed violence. The movie is a curious cocktail of murder, deceit, lies, boxing, smuggling, prostitution and that weird “mama with Billy” vibe.
In May at the Cannes premier of ‘Only God Forgives’ even the audience was confused and divided. Many booed, some just got up and left the flick. Those who remained gave the movie a standing ovation. Director Nicolas Winding Refn, who directed ‘Drive’ with Gosling, is back and even more brutal.
Why the controversy surrounding the movie? The movie was on the brink of being labeled NC-17, a rating to stay away from in Hollywood, or risk limiting crowd appeal. The movie earned an R-rating at the end of roll-out and tongues started wagging. Graphically violent scenes depict the story of a drug dealer, (Gosling), who fronts his business as a boxing club. His brother is brutally murdered and Gosling seeks revenge.
The movie also has a curious, bad after taste with a hint of incestuous behavior between murdered brother ‘Billy’ played by Tom Burke and the men’s mother ‘Crystal’ played by Kristin Scott Thomas. The movie was shot on location in Bangkok, Thailand . Vithaya Pansringarm who famously played the minister in ‘Hangover Part II’ brings to life the ‘Angel of Death’ in ‘Lieutenant Chang,’ and his scenes are especially gory. There are depictions of arms, legs, eyes and even hearts being sliced.
The press is always eager for a new movie, even if they result in a negative reaction. And, the negative reviews are not kind. They are actually pretty scathing and may leave a burning sensation after reading. Critic Jeffrey Wells delivered a well aimed hit at the director’s jugular:
“Refn, (screw) you and the whole Asian action-porn attitude you rode in on. I was repelled by this film in ways I didn’t know I could be repelled.”
Critic Sasha Stone was a bit more kind with his words, but the meaning was the same and states what ‘Only God Forgives,’ “amounts to, in the end, is the careful work of a serial killer. Refn isn’t literally killing women, but he’s indulging in one bloody killing after another, and practically licking the knife afterwards.”
Wells and Stone may have drummed up interest in the independent flick more than they know. ‘ Access Hollywood’ critic Scott Mantz joked, “When people react that strongly, and it has an actor people are interested in, it creates more interest,” he says. “People will say, ‘If it’s that bad, or that controversial, I have to go check it out.’ “
He is right. The film is along the genre of Quentin Tarantino and dynamic friend Robert Rodriguez. There was great controversy when 2007’s ‘Grindhouse: Death Proof and Planet Terror’ were released famously with Kurt Russell starring in ‘Death Proof’, and Bruce Willis in ‘Planet Terror.’ The duoal movie release became an instant cult classic. The movie bombed on the income end but delivered well to a genre of movie watchers who adored the gory and gritty film.
Ryan Gosling continues to redefine his ability as a method actor. From his heart melting role as ‘Noah’ in ‘The Notebook’ to introvert and eccentric ‘Lars Lindstrom’ in ‘Lars and the Real Girl,’ Gosling continues to break the Hollywood mold. He may stir controversy in ‘Only God Forgives,’ but it is more than likely that a multitude of fans will be willing to give it a chance and see if the critics are right.