Nicolas Winding Refn's follow-up to 2011's very nearly perfect Drive is very far from perfect. If one element of Drive stuck in audiences' memories, it was its hazy, druggy atmosphere: Ryan Gosling, then a nameless driver, staring into the distance, or gazing lovingly at Carey Mulligan, when he wasn't dispensing righteous bursts of violence. In Only God Forgives, that equation has been switched; the violence takes the forefront and is usually the opposite of righteous. Going for levels of horrific gore and lurid blood that he hasn't reveled in since his Pusher trilogy, Refn zooms in, tighter and tighter, on his characters' psychological and physical mutilations. A friend I saw Only God Forgives with described the experience as "excruciating." I didn't offer a defense.
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