Thursday, October 24, 2013

Movies with Abe: Our Day Will Come & Only God Forgives

Our Day Will Come
Directed by Romain Gavras
Released October 22, 2013 (VOD)

Only God Forgives
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
Released July 19, 2013 / October 22, 2013 (DVD)

Sometimes, two films released at the same time are natural candidates for being taken together, while other pairings are less immediately obvious. This week, two films that deal with extreme violence and those who utilize it arrive in homes, one on VOD and the other on DVD. At first glance, “Our Day Will Come,” the story of two redheads in France who begin a rampage in which they exact symbolic justice for all that redheads have been forced to endure, and “Only God Forgives,” director Nicolas Winding Refn’s follow-up to “Drive,” which sets itself in underground Bangkok, couldn’t be more different. Their themes, it turns out, are surprisingly similar, yet their styles and messages are not the same.

“Our Day Will Come,” which had a theatrical run back in 2010 in France, stars Oliver Barthelemy as antisocial teen Rémy, who is humiliated early on in the film by his teammates for refusing to shower naked and by peers when it is revealed that his online girlfriend is actually a guy. Psychiatrist Patrick, portrayed by Vincent Cassel, is first seen casually opening a bag of chips while listening to a patient talk about her troubles. The two soon unite and begin the long drive to Ireland, where they presume redheads will be well-treated, stopping along the way to purposely provoke people into physical confrontations, all for the sake of getting out aggression for the wrongs that have been done to redheads over time.

“Only God Forgives” begins with violence, as American Billy sexually assaults and kills a young prostitute, and is subsequently beaten to death by her father, who is encouraged to exact justice by the cruel Lieutenant Chang. The brutal police chief demonstrates his capacity for violence, regularly dismembering people to drive home his point and ensuring that they know the price for crossing him. When Billy’s mother Crystal, played by Kristin Scott Thomas, shows up in Bangkok, she chastises her other son, Julian, portrayed by Ryan Gosling, for not doing everything in his power to avenge his brother. From there, the bloodbath continues exponentially.

Both of these films deal with cultures of violence, where all parties, no matter how innocent, are subject to vicious attack. The former paints a compelling portrait of mental illness, showcasing one socially incompatible character alongside one who might once have better coped but has now chosen to be fed up with society. The latter purposefully sets itself in a world plagued by evil, where even the most blameless of characters are still guilty of verbal abuse and drug dealing. Violence for the sake of violence is something that feels excessive for the state of today’s world, and these two films both arrive at a disturbing end point from very different starting points.

“Our Day Will Come” is an intriguing film centered on Cassel’s magnetic deranged performance, thought-provoking in the way it externalizes internal turmoil. “Only God Forgives” incorporates far too much visual violence, following in the style of Quentin Tarantino, to no discernable effect. Scott Thomas’ memorable performance far outweighs the impact of the film, which is a disappointingly vague second directorial effort for Refn. Neither film is for the faint of heart, but if opting for a film of this sort, pick disconcerting conversation in “Our Day Will Come” over silent, stylized bloodiness in “Only God Forgives.”

Our Day Will Come: B+
Only God Forgives: C-

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