the Film: Only God Forgives

the Guest: Travis Trapp

Only God Forgives is director Nicolas Winding Refn‘s follow-up to his sleeper hit Drive. Both films star Ryan Gosling as similarly stoic characters who have momentary bursts of violence. Drive seemed to fulfill a kind of fantasy about a lone, handsome, and quiet masculine anti-hero archetype that all young kids with their toys enacted from time to time. It tapped into that idea and did it artfully, beautifully. Where the character is just so bad ass*, to use the current parlance (*there’s gotta be a better term, no?), that he seems kind of perfect, regardless of the impossible-to-prevail situation he finds himself in. Only God Forgives, by its marketing materials alone, promises more of the same, but in a foreign neon metropolis, not unlike Blade Runner aesthetically, just not future noir – rather, it is Neon-noir. Instead, we get the opposite of a fantasy-perfect-man.

And while Refn’s lens is still in love with both Gosling & the setting, neon-lit Bangkok, here, he presents a very imperfect character. One who struggles with low self-worth, an inner sadness at his lot in life, his seeming inability to be someone beyond his station. He’s the son of a cold-hearted and manipulative crime boss who is also his mother, effectively played by Kristen Scott Thomas. He’s commissioned to avenge the death of his ne’er-do-well brother but really doesn’t want to. So, it’s a crime family tale, why cover it here on this show?

You see, the movie may star Ryan Gosling, but it belongs to the anti-hero and possible villain of this tale, Lieutenant Chang, portrayed here with stoicism to rival Gosling’s by Vithaya Pansringarm. Chang is a somewhat mythical character that brandishes a short sword to exact punishment. He is the law and the law is brutal. Still, why is this on our weirdo little show here?

Joining me again is friend of the show and fancy pants artist Travis Trapp. We dig in and try to figure out what’s so weird about Only God Forgives. And it IS weird, but how? Why? What is so weird about it? Tune in to find out.

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