Mittwoch, 24. Juli 2013

Bla, bla, blood. Or: "Only God Forgives", a review.

Ryan Gosling has finally completed his transition to a star of silent movies. After "Drive", also by director Nicolas Winding Refn, and "The Place Beyond The Pines" he's perfected his shtick by getting rid of other distractions that might be considered elements of acting, including the movement of muscles situated above his neck. (Those below, however, once again get a decent work-out.) But he's in good company here, as his co-stars also are given physical pain as the only visible emotion to work with. Everything else is left to the viewer to imagine, at best, or at worst alluded to. Alluded to by heavy-handed (or to the point: bloody-handed, cut-off-handed, looked-at-handed) symbolism straight out of film school and fixed glazes and glares that stare down the viewer, practically daring him_her to extract some meaning. (Hint: The boy's had a rough childhood and his mom's had a hand in it.) All these prolonged ocular showdowns leave plenty of runtime for the characters to stay silent and lifeless. Why the mysterious head of a police gang takes it up to enact god-like retribution (foregoing the movie title's forgiveness) is left as open as to why women are reduced to be either manipulative dicks (the boy's mother) or prostitutes (the boy's companion and all others). When people do speak, they manage to say very little that's not already an immediate given (except for the boy's mother, who calls the boy's companion a "cum dumpster", because she's classy like that).

Throughout, the film is beautifully set in scene, although each and every shot looks alike (and like Kubrick, except for the out-of-place Lynchean karaoke pieces). While that may fit to the movie's de-li-be-rate pace, it bores increasingly, and by the tenth static take of a hallway whose sides are perfect mirror images of each other one starts to yearn for a little motion to break the monotony. Well-swept and clean-cut is also the movie's neon version of Bangkok, from which people and noise and traffic and real life are notably absent. The only grime one gets to see are innards and blood, and of that so much that suspicions arise Winding Refn weighed up the missing dirt with gore. As in the last third of the otherwise in every way superior "Drive", in which Gosling also starred as a somewhat uncommunicative alpha male, the excessive violence is heavy in style but low in substance. Much of it happens on-screen in a most celebratory fashion, and when it doesn't, vivid sound effects of parting flesh and dripping blood carry the point home without subtlety. Literally sickening, it recalls Gaspar Noé, an impression confirmed by the tribute paid to him in the closing credits.

Nicolas Winding Refn seems set on a course that will not offer anything new in the future. His fans will continue to enjoy the stylized blend of artful (and artificial) pacing, photography and a driving soundtrack (once again excellent) while his critics will take issue with bland characters and the seeming pornography of the violence depicted. However, Ryan Gosling has earlier ("Half Nelson", "Blue Valentine") shown to be capable of more and it's up to him to branch back out and to avoid being type-cast forever. 4/10

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