Here are some names and words; Refn, Thailand, Gosling, revenge, Kristin Scott Thomas, Mysticism, God, Vithaya Pansringarm, Devil.
All of these words come up frequently, but so do the words collaboration and combination and so on. I am going to go against the grain and suggest instead that despite its elements, pace and narrative that Only God Forgives is in fact extremely dislocated, disaggregated and thoroughly segregated from itself. This tone and constant sense of abandonment that stems from every character is expressed in a slow-burning way that usually explodes into searing traumatic violence that the sublime score backs up with aplomb. Each character is given their time in the film but almost nothing is revealed about them, but pay attention. It is what is not said, and not expressed that reveal the history, motivations and reasons for these despicable, disgusting humans to exist and do what they do.
Thailand is the place, and its mystical philosophy bleeds into neon nights effortlessly and makes it a chilling numbers game for the crime-ridden westerners that do inhabit it. Chang, the retired cop that has untold support from his loyal officers meters out justice, he is the god of his domain and that domain happens to be Bangkok. It is swift, it is bloody and it will get under your skin, juxtapose these with scenes of Chang belting out a slow karaoke ballad and it’s quite easy to dismiss Only God Forgives as arty or pretentious, but don’t. Instead embrace it for all its worth and more. This is a perfect film, it is flawless in conception, it leaves so many gaps for your own brain to fathom between the lines and the dialogue is purposely stilted or minimal as to enhance the undeniable power of the sound and the furious imagery that accompanies it.
Every scene is art, the placement the lighting and the cinematography and when you aren’t feeling tense or blown away by the visceral eye candy you are most likely then in a trance of red corridors and sensual detail-laden rooms.
Convention is the enemy and Only God Forgives slices it in two.
Kwenton Bellette - follow Kwenton on Twitter here: @Kwenton