For Ryan Gosling, Only God Forgives is like a drug

Published: July 21, 2013
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With its minimal dialogue, gruesome scenes of torture and bloodletting, the highly stylised film is not for the squeamish. PHOTO: FILE

With its minimal dialogue, gruesome scenes of torture and bloodletting, the highly stylised film is not for the squeamish. PHOTO: FILE

NEW YORK: Ryan Gosling’s latest film Only God Forgives has deeply divided critics. The Canadian actor concedes that the blood-spattered crime thriller set in Bangkok’s underworld of boxing clubs and brothels may not appeal to everyone.

“The film is kind of like a drug,” the former child star who appeared on The Mickey Mouse Club TV show, told reporters ahead of the film’s opening in US theatres on Friday.

“You either have a good trip or a bad trip.”

For critics at the Cannes Film Festival – where the film, written and directed by Denmark’s Nicolas Winding Refn, was shown in May – it was a bit of both. It prompted boos and sent some critics scurrying from the press screening, while others praised the film’s artistic merits.

With its minimal dialogue and gruesome scenes of torture and bloodletting, the highly stylised film is not for the squeamish.

The Hollywood Reporter described it as a “menacingly atmospheric mood piece that will not disappoint devotees of the Nicolas Winding Refn church of fetishistic hyper-violence.”

Variety’s Peter Debruge called it “an exercise in supreme style and minimal substance,” and Keith Uhlich, of Time Out New York magazine, said Refn “clearly thinks he’s saying something profound with this laboriously overproduced dross.”

The film offered an opportunity for Gosling, who was nominated for best actor in the Academy Awards 2007 for the drama Half Nelson, to reunite with Refn.

The pair collaborated on the 2011 art-house drama Drive, which earned a best director award for Refn at Cannes.

“I wanted to work with Nicolas,” Gosling said, adding that for Refn the violent tone of the film is “part of the language which he uses to communicate.”

Gosling, 32, plays Julian, a brooding American fugitive in Bangkok who runs a boxing club as a front for his drug business. After his brother is killed for murdering a young Thai prostitute, his gangster mother, played by British actor Kristin Scott Thomas, arrives in Bangkok and demands bloody revenge.

But a mysterious, sword-wielding former policeman, with a penchant for chopping off body parts, has other plans.

The role was a departure for Thomas, who is best known for portraying haughty, stylish women in films such as Four Weddings and a Funeral and The English Patient.

Sporting long blonde hair, heavy make-up and stilettos, Thomas said the make-over helped her get into the character.

“The violence is very shocking but it is more than the physical, gory special effects type of violence,” she said.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2013.

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