REVIEW: Only God Forgives

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Only God Forgives
Directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn
Written by: Nicolas Winding Refn (screenplay)
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vithaya Pansringarm and Tom Burke

Only God Forgives, Nicolas Winding Refn’s follow up to my favorite film of 2011, Drive, will manage to kill whatever good mood you have that day. This time around, rather than sunny California, Winding Refn takes us to what I can only assume is Hell’s Indochinese district. Only one thing happens here: abuse.

The movie starts with Muay Thai boxers trading blows, and it’s the most civil interaction you’ll see from here on out. From a stadium seat view, we descend slowly, with all  wrapped in an orange glow. Julian (Ryan Gosling) sits in the stands, his expression impenetrable. He exchanges a nod from behind the caged bleachers to the only other white men in the gym. They’re down on the floor, likely exchanging some drugs. Either way this is more than a gym. Suddenly we see hands slowly closing to fists, then Julian revealed only by gold bands of light striped across his face. His brother Billy, drunk, bathed in bands of red light, asks if Julian is ready to meet the Devil.

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REVIEW: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Directed by: Lasse Hallström
Written by: Simon Beaufoy (screenplay), Paul Torday (novel)
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Amr Waked and Kristin Scott Thomas

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is as interesting as a movie about fishing could possibly be, which is a back-handed compliment but also a true one.  It is the story of the wealthy Sheik Muhammad (Amr Waked) and his desire to bring salmon to his native part of Yemen.  This is absurd to the scientist Dr. Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor), who is approached by the sheik’s consultant Harriet (Emily Blunt) as well as pressured by the British government, to make this vision come true.

There are many technical and ecological obstacles that stand in the way of the sheik’s plan, none of which are made very hazardous or interesting.  This is because the main point of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is not that there are two likeable people trying to overcome outrageous odds, but rather that they and the sheik must meet in the ideological and cultural middle to do so.  Alfred is obviously very logic based, though he’s stuck doing a task for a man who is relying heavily on faith and destiny.  Since that man has substantial funds, Harriet is happy to play the middlewoman between them.

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