Evidently, expat Julian Thompson had a spot of legal trouble back home. He and his drug-running brother Billy now assume
Bangkok is their oyster and act accordingly.
However, Thompson might just miss those coppers with their due
process. The family business will get decidedly ugly in Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God
opens today in New York.
is the sensitive Thompson brother. He
runs the legit side of their Muay Thai boxing club front and keeps his regular prostitute
Mai on-call, even though he never fully avails himself of her services, if you
get the drift. Billy Thompson was always
their mother’s favorite. Unfortunately,
he is now dead, but he sure had it coming.
raping and killing an under-aged prostitute, the elder Thompson brother was
locked in a room with her guilt ridden father, who knew what to do. Chang was the one who told him to. The mysterious retired police officer still
seems to call all the shots on the Bangkok force. Although he sometimes appears eerily
bad-assed, Chang is probably just a metaphorical “Angel of Death.” Of course, Thompson is just as dead either
the circumstances of his brother’s death, little Julian has trouble ginning-up
sufficient outrage to seek vengeance.
This is not the case for their Oedipus Complex-on-wheels mother,
Crystal. She blows into town like a
hurricane, determined to avenge her preferred son. Crystal will also take every opportunity to
mess with Julian’s head, while re-asserting control of her far-flung illicit
businesses. Killing a cop is no big deal
to her, but Chang is no ordinary flatfoot.
what it’s worth, Only is nowhere near
the train wreck Cannes reviewers made it out to be. The film has its memorable moments and
performances. Yet, there is no denying
Winding Refn’s approach is rather self-indulgent. There are so many long slow David Lynchian
shots of empty hallways, viewers will half expect the giant and the dwarf to eventually
pop out of a door. There is also an
oppressively misogynistic vibe to the film.
Thai actress Ratha Phongam is a lovely woman, who does what she can with
Mai’s pencil thin character, but the way the Thompsons treat her is rather
appalling—and she gets off easy compared to others.
course, some might call Crystal Thompson a strong female character. That is certainly true, but a foul mouthed, sexually
manipulative, woman-hating, sociopathic mommy-monster should not exactly
constitute a feminist role model.
Kristin Scott Thomas is rather awe-inspiring in the role, hardening her
tart-tongued imperious image in a forge of Hellfire.
the film’s credit, it finally finds Ryan Gosling’s comfort range: sullen and
emasculated. The film also delivers vicarious payback during Julian’s massive
beatdown scene. Audiences will start to
cheer in their heads “that was for the interminable Blue Valentine and that was for the pretentious The Place Beyond the Pines, and that was
for its ridiculously awkward title.”
though, Vithaya Pansringarm is the star of the film, following-up his breakout
performance as the murder-solving Buddhist monk in Tom Waller’s Mindfulness and Murder. An intensely righteous screen presence, his
Chang is like a Dirty Harry with a divine mandate. As the president of the Thailand Kendo Club,
he also swings a sword with authority.
Winding Refn’s directorial hand is so heavy it nearly crushes everyone on
screen, except KST and Pansringarm—they never wilt. Too laborious and too stylized, it still
serves as a dramatic showcase for its fine supporting players. Only recommended as a curiosity piece for cult
film veterans, Only God Forgives opens
today (7/19) in New York at the Angelika Film Center.
Labels: Kristin Scott Thomas, Nicolas Winding Refn, Vithaya Pansringarm