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Only God Forgives

Director:  Nicolas Winding Refn
Year Released:  2013
Rating:  1.5

Muay Thai club owner Julian (Ryan Gosling) is forced to avenge the death of his sleaze-bag brother Billy (Tom Burke) - after Billy rapes and kills a 16-year-old prostitute - except his plans for revenge are not so simple to execute, as the man he's after is a ruthless police lieutenant (Vithaya Pansringarm) who happens to be more skilled with a sword (and with his fists) than as a nightclub singer. Stylistically impressive - the cinematography by Larry Smith is top-notch, and the lighting is simply gorgeous - but a fundamentally hollow (one might even say flagrantly dumb) revenge story, taking special care to photograph bloodletting and limb-severing with precision, but neglecting to create well-defined characters: Julian's mum (Kristen Scott Thomas) is a shrill, trash-talking harpy while Gosling does as he's told and stares impassively. The police lieutenant, apparently a 'force for good' (relatively speaking) wipes out the ex-patriots (and even locals involved in shady affairs) by cutting their arms off, slicing their eyes and severing their jugulars (apparently in Thailand no one simply 'gets arrested'): in any other movie he'd be the "bad guy," but there are so many bad people in this it's like watching scum wiping out scum (so much for the nuances of actual justice).

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