In Depth

Ryan Gosling's violent film gets Cannes festival-goers booing

From the wonderful folks who gave you 'Drive' comes 'a sickening pornography of violence'

gosling-only-god-forgives.jpg

AFTER their critical and commercial triumph with the 2011 hit film Drive, actor Ryan Gosling and director Nicolas Winding Refn have received mixed reviews for their follow-up joint effort, Only God Forgives.

The Guardian's film critic Peter Bradshaw has given it a full five stars, saying every scene is brilliantly executed. But some critics are not nearly so sure, and there were boos from the audience at its Cannes Film Festival screening when the violence went over the top.

  • Cannes film festival red carpet - in pictures

Gosling plays Julian, an American running a boxing club in Bangkok that serves as a front for a family drug business. Julian's brother, Billy, is killed by a Thai brothel owner for the murder of his daughter.

The boys' mother Crystal - played by Kristin Scott Thomas - arrives in Thailand seeking revenge, leading to a ruthless and bloody pursuit. The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney says her performance as a crime empress is the film's juiciest pleasure - "she works a slender cigarette like a master calligrapher wielding a brush".

Bradshaw calls the overall result "ultra-violent, creepy and scary" and says the director's "bizarre infernal creation" is gripping.

The Independent's Geoffrey MacNab agrees the film is visually "stunning", and likes Gosling's "moody" performance, but says the plot "would barely pass muster in the lowest-grade B movie".

Robbie Collin in the Daily Telegraph describes a "sickening pornography of violence", but adds: "I love that Winding Refn has made it - that after Drive's success gave him an honest crack at the big time he has responded with this abstruse, neon-dunked nightmare that spits in the face of coherence and flicks at the earlobes of good taste". Even Bradshaw warns that the violence in Only God Forgives will have the audience "running for the exit, and running for the hills". His prediction was confirmed yesterday when, as the BBC reports, "there were walk-outs and boos" in Cannes.

Winding Refn, who won the best director prize at Cannes in 2011 for Drive, defended his work to reporters who attended the screening. "Art is an act of violence," he said. "Art is about speaking to our subconscious and our needs at different levels."

The Hollywood Reporter concludes: "While Only God Forgives could be accused of shallowness and lack of psychological complexity, for the target audience, it will be wicked cool entertainment."

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