Only God Forgives
Director Nicolas Winding Refn made something of a name for himself with the ultra-stylish and brutal thriller Drive. Only God Forgives reunites him with that film’s star Ryan Gosling, who has built a career on brooding looks and long silences. Here he takes his laconic persona to its logical conclusion, playing Julian, a character who appears to be in a state of petrification, with barely five lines in the whole film. He is one of two brothers living in the twilight of the Bangkok underworld, selling drugs through the front of a boxing club.
Stealing the show is Kristen Scott-Thomas as Gosling’s terrifying mother, who arrives demanding revenge and pouring scorn on her silent son. Karaoke-singing, samurai sword-wielding cop Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm) glides though the film exacting mysterious, bloody justice. There are no likeable protagonists in this world of depravity, you have to buy into the aesthetic of it all. Refn’s trademark electro pop soundtrack, long, beautifully framed shots and scenes of extreme violence are all here – but this is no sequel to Drive. If you want action and dialogue, steer clear.
One-time heartthrob Rob Lowe stars as a political fixer who could teach Macchiavelli a thing or two. He is put on damage control duties following the scandalous affairs of California senator Stephen Green (David Harbour) and Kentucky Governor Larry Becker (Eric McCormack). Lowe effortlessly carries the film as he skillfully manipulates public opinion by all means necessary to save his clients from themselves and their bed-hopping antics. However, a tendency to indulge in liberal preaching – as if the audience doesn’t get that this is a satire on political fakery – undermines what should have been a sharp political comedy. Lowe’s unconvincing attack of conscience and change of heart marks a failure of dramatic nerve by the writers. Pity.
Justin and the Knights of Valour
Clumsy and awkward Justin dreams of being a knight like his grandfather and goes on a quest to fight a dragon. Antonio Banderas and Rupert Everett are on board for this children’s animated tale. Freddie Highmore is a likable protagonist and the wise monks played by Charles Dance, James Cosmo and Barry Humphries are a nice touch. David Walliams plays a sneering wizard but hardly raises a laugh. Competent animation.
Faced with college tuition fees of $60,000 and no rich parents to pay them, poker whizz Justin Timberlake decides to fund his education with high-stakes online gambling. When he goes bust thanks to a fixed online game, he hunts down the offshore casino king (a very tanned Ben Affleck) he thinks has fleeced him, but finds himself drawn into a world of criminality.
Bollwatch: Phata Poster Nikhla Hero
Vishwas Rao plays an aspiring actor who is mistaken for a real-life super cop, despite his complete terror of violence. Ileana D’Cruz plays a zealous social worker who spends a lot of her time down the cop shop filing complaints about corrupt politicians and bent police officers. When the pair meet, Rao cannot reveal his true identity, leading to all kinds of bizarre and hilarious situations. An old school masala comedy aimed squarely at a family audience.