By Megan Bianco

Many an artsy film fan anticipated the second collaboration between heartthrob Ryan Gosling and graphic filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn released this summer.

After penning one of the most unique action films of the last decade with Drive (2011), their new movie Only God Forgives has a lot of expectations to fill. Refn himself has called Drive a dream and Forgives a nightmare. Both descriptions have become true in more ways than one.

In a seedy Bangkok boxing community, Julian’s (Gosling) older brother Billy (Tom Burke) is murdered. A mysteriously dangerous cop named Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm) is ready to battle Julian, while Julian’s drug lord mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) gives him the okay to kill his brother’s enemies.

Rhatha Phongam co-stars as Julian’s object of affection. Refn uses just as much action and violence as he did earlier with Gosling on film, only this time much more intensely and indulgently. Here, the story is darker but ends disappointingly.

What the plot and character lack in development, the interesting direction and cinematography hardly make up for. Only God Forgives goes to show that very few filmmakers who aren’t named Terrence Malick can get away with little dialogue, and Thomas deserves to play a character with more than just incestuous vibes and son issues.

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