Danish auteur Nicolas Winding Refn is known for producing meditative and surreal works of cinematic art, where the borderline abstract storylines and haunting dream-like moods are punctuated by brutal acts of violence (see: Valhalla Rising, Drive). That approach has been carried over into his second collaboration with actor Ryan Gosling, titled Only God Forgives, and early reactions from critics who saw the movie at the 2013 Cannes Festival are extremely polarizing (either the film is a sick slow-burn experience or an overly-violent endurance test, depending on who you believe).
That partly accounts for why the latest Only God Forgives international trailer is all hip music – the instrumental portion of the Suuns’ track “2020” – and visuals soaked in neon colors, with plot beats that tease horrible acts to follow in the final movie. The marketing for Drive used a similar bait-and-switch tactic, so as to entice viewers who might not otherwise consider seeing an atmospheric neo-Noir drama/thriller.
Only God Forgives stars Gosling as Julian, an exiled American in Bangkok who runs a Thai boxing club as a cover for his family’s drug-smuggling empire. When his brother is executed for murdering a prostitute, Julian’s mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) demands that her remaining son retaliate by tracking down and slaying the man responsible. Problem is, that righteous killer (Vithaya Pansringarm) works for the Bangkok police department.
Refn directed from his original script, while re-collaborating behind the camera with cinematographer Larry Smith (Bronson), production designer Beth Mickle (Drive) and composer Cliff Martinez (Spring Breakers). Will Only God Forgives inspire as strong a cult following as Drive, or something closer to the niche audience for titles like Valhalla Rising and the Pusher trilogy?
Only God Forgives begins a limited U.S. theatrical release on July 19th, 2013.