Nicolas Winding Refn rarely thinks twice about pushing the limits in his violent thrillers. But is "Only God Forgives" the point where the director has gone that one gory bit too far? The answer to that would rest solely on the attitude of who is viewing it.
"Only God Forgives" is a sex driven blood bath. The story circulates around the protagonist Julian, portrayed by Ryan Gosling, a drug dealer who fled the US for Bangkok. Julian seeks revenge for his elder brother who was murdered by corrupt police after he killed a young prostitute.
It is at this point in the film you garner the first real taste of bloodshed - the image of a blood sodden sex worker lying in the corner of a room followed by a glimpse of her killer's decimated head is more than a little striking.
If you've seen Refn and Gosling's previous team up "Drive" you will be aware that Gosling's character is a man of very few words. Nothing has changed here; the trademark long silences and stares are rife all through the movie. During the first half twenty minutes or so only one word is uttered from Julian's lips: "Go." His most exciting and memorable line comes near the end of the thriller when he propositions the man responsible for his brother's death: "Wanna fight?"
Two other characters of note include ruthless corrupt cop Chang played by Vithaya Pansringram. From carrying out morbid acts of brutality to singing sombrely to his fellow policeman in a Thai bar, he is a truly interesting and gripping addition to the film.
Another character that strengthens the film is Crystal, Julian's mother. As she arrives in Bangkok her involvement with her son's drug dealing quickly becomes evident. Not only that but her anger and disappointment in Julian's efforts to deal with his brother's killer add an extra kick to proceedings.
Sex is a major theme and it at times borders on pornography. A film that deals with the criminal underworld of Bangkok is always likely to have this edge to it. A scene where this applies is certainly one of the first scenes we see of Julian. The drug dealer being tied to a chair and proceeding to watch his favourite prostitute touch herself gives you an inclining of what this explicit thriller entails.
"Only God Forgives" is generally an entertaining watch with a number of enthralling scenes. The story line is a little thin however and we are left feeling unsatisfied by the ending.