I like a good pretentious genre piece that is unusual and above the ordinary. When it involves a lot of symbolic imagery surrounding hands and karaoke I am all there. People seem to hate Ryan Gosling for his minimalistic approach to acting and they are certianly not gonna like him more after watching this ambivalent revenge tale.
What is particularly great about this is how it completely fucks around with how you normally watch movies. The protagonist is usually the one who gets the largest amount of screen time.Who the protagonist is in this one is not entirely certain..And if you have yet to pick up on King Oidipus you are basically shit out of luck because there are plenty of stuff in here to indicate a connection. Roslings character is Oidipus who in the end gets his hands chopped off, simply cause he ows that. Oidipus cuts his eyes out at the end when he realize his dreadful mistakes and I imagine it works equally here.
Roslings lowlife brother murdered an underaged girl which sets off a violent rampage in Thailand that has to be redeemed just like how in Sophocles tale of redemption the land was rampaged by disease and famine. Someone has to pay. But according to Roslings dominant mother whom he may or may not have a sexual relationship with demands retribution for. It all comes back to Sophocles I think.
A lot of the movie is ambience, sound and atmosphere and I think part of that is what turns people off. They are so used to that genre movies are dumb noisy pieces with lots of spectacle in terms of visual violent pleasure and little brain in them. And when there is actually one with brains they dismiss it. The message is you simply cannot win.Damn!
Kristin Scott Thomas is amazing as the dominant queenbitch supreme gangster boss and a lot of the sceenes with her and Gosling are creepy at best and affirms the Sophocles connection.
Espect violence aplenty and you will be disappointed. This whole tale is about ambivalence. Who really is the perp? The main "villain" (as he would be called in mainstream cinema) is a thai cop out for justice. In a normal american cop movie the focus would have been on him, since the whole instigation is Goslings broters stupid affairs. But since the focus are on the westerners of course we are going to think they are the "good guys". No, they are not. They are despicable people at best. And that is what I love about this unusual revenge story because it takes an unexpected twist to the story.
Director Nicolas Winding Refn has produced extraordinary arthouse genre pieces befor. Drive was certainly a lot less abstract than this one and would have fitted in nicely among Steve McQueens carchasemovies of the seventies.
Only God Forgives is a definite brainchewer and there is a lot I still don´t understand. But as an unusual revengemovie it hits topmarks as far as I am concerned.