Thursday, November 28, 2013

EXTRA FOR THANKSGIVING: Could this be the turkey of all time? Refn's ONLY GOD FORGIVES

For the first year since its inception, TrustMovies feels the need to post twice on Thanksgiving, having just watched this past evening Nicolas Winding Refn's more-ludicrous-than-usual movie, ONLY GOD FORGIVES. Not being god, and not even believing in she/he/it, I find it quite appropriate that Mr. Refn would use a non-existent deity in his title in order that -- of course! -- nobody can forgive this prime poop. "How can you keep watching this piece of shit!" my spouse screamed at me after maybe 40 minutes of the movie, at which point he absented himself from the room. I admit I was tempted to stop, but truly bad movies have a kind of fascination about them that sometimes outdoes the lure of their more mediocre (or even a good deal better) brethren. If ever a film deserve the "turkey" label, it's this one.

Mr. Refn (shown at left), whose work I tend to dislike and dismiss as pretty & vapid or stylish & empty (take your pick) -- only Bronson seems to me to be a worthwhile effort, thanks in large part to the performance of Tom Hardy in the leading role -- clearly has a "thing" for his star Ryan Gosling (shown below), whom he used in Drive and again here. Having a thing for Gosling strikes me as a fairly universal occupation among directors. How could one not? The camera loves this guy like it does few other actors working today. Still, that love on Refn's part seems not to translate into giving the actor much to do, say or feel. If you thought that Drive was rather empty, wait till you get a load of this newest delectation, in which Refn takes dysfunction (familial and societal) to new heights (or depths) without having one fucking interesting or worthwhile point to offer about all this. No, but let's just make it as pretty and colorful as can be, shall we?

So he does, and it is. And of course, violent, as well. What else might we expect from this pusher of Pusher and Valhalla Rising?

The story, told with flourishes of color and a tad's worth of dialog, begins with a troubled fellow named Billy, who for some reason feels he must murder a young girl who is working as a prostitute. He does, and the event is taken under the wing of a character who appears to be some kind of avenging angel/police officer (Vithaya Pansringarm, above), who begins arranging that one person involved kill another and then that person in turn be killed by another, and so forth.

Now, you might ask, wouldn't it just be easier for the policeman to kill 'em all, as he seems to possess unlimited authority. But no, this is lesson-teaching time, him to them and Mr. Refn to us. So we must slough through endless bouts of internal angst, mostly from Gosling, who is having trouble with his sex/love life (see above)...

and his family life, too, in the form of his mother, played with quite the nod to Donatella Versace by Kristin Scott-Thomas, above, as you've never seen her (and if she's wise, the actress will never let us see her like this again). Mom's logic goes somewhat along the lines of "Vengeance is mine," sayest the harridan, and so more bloodshed is destined to occur.

Everyone involved here seems to have a family that they must take care for, and so Refn's point may be that people will simply do what they have to in order to protect their own. As usual, however -- even and especially with filmmakers who like to pretend that they are pushing the envelope -- nobody (or very few: Battle Royale deserves yet another thank you) wants to go far enough to kill children. (Although Obama and his drones do seem to relish this kind of thing.)

So on we go with more and more killings and less and less dialog. (My favorite line comes out of Gosling's mouth, suddenly and very oddly: "Wanna fight?") There is one original death in which the victim, who slowly loses the use of his limbs and a few orifices, is surrounded by lovely Thai ladies in evening dress. Yes, but so what?

Only God Forgives -- from RaDIUS/TWC, running 90 minutes, and available now on Netflix streaming, Amazon Instant Video and on DVD and Blu-ray -- is a truly stupid movie, gussied up to look like art. It won't take long, however, for audiences to realize what they're experiencing. In a word: fart.

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