Synopsis: Billy (Tom Burke) and Julian (Ryan Gosling) run the Thai end of the family drug-dealing business, overseen by their mum and general nutcase Crystal (Kristen Scott Thomas). When Billy is killed for murdering a 16 year-old girl, his mum demands that her remaining son finds and kills the man responsible – a retired cop with a penchant for karaoke and violence.
What can I say? While this starts promisingly with lots of moody lighting, moody music and moody faces from Gosling, it soon runs out of steam. Cue lots of lingering shots of Gosling’s pretty but vacant looking face (judging from his performance in Half Nelson, I think he can actually act so I assume this is what the director was after).
Kristen Scott Thomas was good fun as the mental matriarch bent on revenge, even if she did look uncannily like Madonna during the bicep years, but I didn’t care about these characters. If this was an authentic Asian revenge thriller it probably would have been from the POV of the the cop, the most interesting character. I can see it now – the cop who dishes out his own form of bloody justice on the streets of Bangkok, with the help of his trusty sword, which he whips out whenever a baddie steps out of line. Much more interesting than what we’re treated to here.
Essentially, the biggest problem with this film is that not much happens. Although it’s only 90 minutes long (and thank heaven for that) I’d say that only about half that is dialogue or action. The rest of that is Gosling starring blankly/sadly/angrily or seemingly never-ending scenes of dimly lit corridors with red wallpaper. Oh the corridors!
This is far from the worst film I’ve ever seen, but it isn’t anywhere near as good as it think it is. Sure, it looks good but there’s just no substance.
Final thoughts: As my nan would say, “it’s all fur coat and no knickers”. Watch the Vengeance Trilogy instead – Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance or Oldboy. Park Chan Wook‘s trilogy contains so much genius you never need watch Only God Forgives.
Running time: 1 hr 30 mins
Directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Kristen Scott Thomas, Vithaya Pansringarm