The art of Nicholas Winding Refn is comprised of 2 things, color and posture. By that, I mean the essence of every scene that comprises a Refn movie is a combination of its color or look, and the postures of the actors within the frame. It’s two halves which, when joined together create a full experience. Mood, temperature, intensity, and fear stem from the color… anticipation, pain, and sexuality stem from posture. This has been evident from Bronson, which fed off of Tom Hardy’s intimidating physique and tiger-like crouching, while all the heart-pounding fury of the film stemmed from the crimson blood spattered jail walls, to the bleach white emotionless enclosures of the mental institution.
With Only God Forgives, this beautiful relationship of color and posture seems to have been rid of its significance. While there certainly is a very obvious use of vibrant coloration, and the actors all have a signature style, whether it be a hip swerving walk (Kristin Scott Thomas) , a straight-laced army stance (Vithaya Pansringam), or an uneasy slouch (Ryan Gosling), none of these substances compile together to make any sort of potent chemical potion. Only God Forgives instead, uses color and posture for the most simplistic (and for someone with the talent of Refn, most disappointing) device for attention-grabbing: style. There is no doubting that Refn’s latest feature keeps you hooked, but the only reason you would be staring at the screen is because of the young prostitute drenched in blood, on a sapphire blue rug with shades of green beaming from the side, or how Pansringam’s office Chan (clearly the character Refn put the most effort into) stands idle in the blue boxing room as the camera slowly does a 360 shot on him, or Kristin Scott Thomas sits in a tight leopard patterned club dress on a white leather sofa in a completely bleach-white clad hotel room. These scenes make you go “Wow, that looks pretty cool”, and they are the type of imagery Viagra commercials use to simulate sexual arousal. While they did enough for me to be enticed in the film’s world, they never lead up to anything… which automatically had me turning around and asking “did I really just watch that?” It’s a form of hollowness I would never expect of Refn.