Set amongst the criminal underground world of Bangkok, the story begins with brothers Julian (Gosling, looking as firm and delicious as ever!) and Billy (Tom Burke). They run a Muay Thai gym, which is actually a disguise for a drug trafficking business run from the US by Crystal, their foul mouthed, fake-eyelashed, platinum blonde mother (Kristin Scott Thomas in fine form)
One night Billy spends the evening with an underaged prostitute and kills her. Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm) is the policeman in charge of this case and he allows the girl’s father to do justice for his daughter by killing Billy (after which, Chang has a go at the father for letting his daughter be a prostitute and not being a responsible guardian, in this most peculiar twist of morality).
Julian is devastated by his brother’s death, despite knowing that Billy was definitely in the wrong, and he finds it difficult to explain to their mother when she arrives from the US. Her response is a curt: “…I’m sure he had his reasons…”
Crystal is furious with Julian for not avenging his brother’s death and decides to get revenge on Chang herself. Unfortunately for Julian, this includes his involvement in a situation he doesn’t want to be anywhere near.
Refn’s dark tale focuses on the themes of family, loyalty and salvation, but its extreme violence is something that you have to be ready for. Some have compared it to a David Lynch release, whereas others have said it resembles films from Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai, with it’s lack of any major back story.
The crew have done an outstanding job on this film. We see a return of some of the crew from Drive, including Cliff Martinez, who is again responsible for a great score. Beth Mickele is responsible for yet another superb production design in a film by Refn. They were joined by Larry Smith (Eyes Wide Shut) for some mesmerising cinematography.
While we do not get to see much in character development, it is nice to see there are some good roles here. Gosling is at complete ease in this role, however, it would be nice to see him in a different role in his next film. His last three films have seen him as the broody bad-boy character. I have to say though, it is Kristin Scott Thomas who takes the show away. Looking not unlike Donnatella Versace, she delivers her harshest role yet.
What the movie lacks in back-story and character development though, it makes up for with it’s intense spirit and style.
And it’s always nice to see Gosling!
Rating out of 5: 3
Opens Thursday 18 July 2013