Movie review: Bloody plot doesn't match self-importance of 'Only God Forgives'

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In the disappointing "Only God Forgives," writer-director Nicolas Winding Refn and star Ryan Gosling double down on the brooding atmosphere they created in "Drive," but with less to show for it.

Gosling plays Julian, an American running a drug-smuggling operation in a Bangkok boxing club. Then Julian's unstable brother, Billy (Tom Brown), murders a teen prostitute. A retired police commander (Vithaya Pansringarm) enacts a rough justice by letting the girl's father kill Billy — after which the commander, known as the "Angel of Vengeance," cuts off the father's arm.

That settles things in Julian's mind, but not in the view of his hard-ass mom (Kristin Scott Thomas), who flies in to berate him for not avenging Billy's death. Mom is determined to correct that oversight, which sets her and Julian on a blood-soaked collision course with the commander.

The plot has the spirit and violence of a classic exploitation thriller, but Winding Refn tries to pump up the story's self-importance by setting a glacial pace that highlights Larry Smith's luxurious cinematography and Cliff Martinez's dense, pounding score. It's as if Stanley Kubrick had directed a Quentin Tarantino script, and those two moods do not make a coherent pairing.; —


'Only God Forgives'

Opens Friday, July 19, at the Broadway Centre Cinemas; rated R for strong bloody violence including grisly images, sexual content and language; 90 minutes.