Monday, August 26, 2013

MUGSHOTS OF A BANGKOK STUPOR


Besides the fact that it’s from the guy who made us Drive, there were three things in the rushes that urged me to watch Nicolas Winding Refn’s new bloody and Oedipal Only God Forgives- the neon lit surrealism, Kristin Scott Thomas’ eerie new avatar and the exotic setting. Does it really have that flashy rotund worm pegged in there or is it just the unkind hook? That remains to be seen.

Only God Forgives tells a story about settling scores in the devious corridors of Bangkok underworld glowing in the entrancing crimson radiance of neon. Ryan Gosling plays a low-level drug dealer who is caught up between the rightness of his brother’s murder and the mother who has sworn to avenge the death. Kristen Scott Thomas who plays the widowed mob mother here, as Lady-Macbeth-in-Donatella-Versace-get-up is ruthless and unapologetic with a menacing grip on her surviving son. In addition to these two leads, there is a chilling performance by Vithaya Pansrigarm as the calm but merciless police officer who is at their ass functioning by a rule of his own moral justice. The remaining peripheral faces and forms strictly stays within the margins maintaining the sanctity of the scantily populated frames.

Although Gosling wades through familiar waters similar to his previous taciturn characters, Scott Thomas’ powerful presence stuns you as his deviant foul-mouthed vamp of a mother. What is even more compelling and wicked is the dynamics between the firebrand mother and the submissive son.
Refn drifts through the entire trancelike narrative with deft handling of the material and mood. From the very start you have come to terms with the fact that you are inside of a hypnotizing red nightmare. You are in a particular state where you are ready to accept a lot of things you wouldn’t have in your normal state of thinking. There are instances you wait with baited breath across very long pauses in silence. There are also blood-curdling scenes that leave the impact of the shudder long after it’s over. The splashes of blood are lavish, its color often used to create unsettling collages. (Many a number of times, the creative excesses of Tarantino and Wong Kar Wai flash in front you in lush and lurid colors and surreal imagery).
 

Only God Forgives is brilliant at places and to an extent is consistent till right before the final scenes, which steers towards an anti climax with a kind of reckless abandon. When all that crossing through the ultra violent phantasmagoria of the disturbing region washes down to a rushed job to wind up tour, one start to wonder, “That’s it?” suspecting if it really was thought through. The story shuts out leaving the audience sadly yearning for a superior closing. Or it’s a very personal perspective since it’s apparent that everybody involved with the film was very serious about what they were doing, and the ending was exactly the way they wanted. And it really might work for some.

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