Just two years ago, Nicolas Winding Refn walked away from the Croisette in the glow of mass admiration, following the hugely successful premiere of Drive. This year, the Danish director returned to the Cannes once more to compete for the Palme d’Or with Only God Forgives, another collaboration with Ryan Gosling.
Many who turned up for this morning’s 8.30am screening were expecting something special. Prior to the curtain rolling back there was a tangible sense of anticipation in the air. This was to be the movie that really brought the 2013 Festival to life.
Sadly, however, this movie is no Drive.
Gosling plays Julian, co-owner of a Thai boxing club, which is a front for selling class-A drugs, with brother Billy, played by Tom Burke.
Both men clearly have a taste for violence, but it is Billy who one night seeks to cause harm and ends up himself the recipient of a deadly bludgeoning by his victim’s father.
Julian sets out on a course for revenge against his brother’s killers, but his conscience gets the better of him – much to the disapproval of his unsympathetic mother, played by Kristin Scott Thomas.
Playing an almost identical man-of-few-words character to his Driver, Gosling once again smirks his way through an entire movie, which undoes any chance of us feeling remotely concerned for his character’s plight. Yes, the man looks great in a suit, but come on… is that seriously all he knows?
The synthpop-style soundtrack does little to help matters, making the final product seem all the more ridiculous.
For a movie that clocks in at just 90 minutes, with around 15 of those essentially just Karoke, Only God Forgives is astoundingly slow-paced and ultimately dull. The smattering of gory violence does nothing to lift what is an almost entirely unengaging plot set against an often surreal backdrop that contains little colour other than red.
Winding Refn clearly enjoyed the praise he received for the visual impact of Drive, but with Only God Forgives he has ensured that style took such precedence that it became far more important than delivering any kind of substance.
After three quick shots of espresso to reawaken myself and it was back into the Grand Lumiere Threatre for All Is Lost, starring Robert Redford and quite literally no one else.
Redford plays an unnamed yachtsman who finds himself cast adrift following a collision with a container from a ship which leaves all of his instruments defunct. Resilient and resourceful, we follow as he heads unknowingly into a giant storm, leaving his already frail boat beyond all repair. Abandoning ship into a rather impressive lifeboat, he drifts for days with little water under an unrelenting hot sun, and having consumed most of his rations.
At close to two hours and with just a few lines of dialogue throughout, and most of those in the opening sequence, things could quite easily have become a drag, but the highly engrossing nature of Redford’s performance truly pulled me into the moment with him.
While offering nothing particularly new to the genre, with an obviously predictable conclusion, All Is Lost is still enjoyable on many levels and could well be a surprise success story at the Box Office when it’s released later this year.
Tonight I have the privilege – I think that’s what it is, anyway – of seeing a band called Puggy perform live at the Hotel Majestic. No, I hadn’t heard of them either, but I’m informed they are rather popular in Belgium. Plus, there’s free cocktails, which is naturally the main attraction.
You can follow Peter Willis on Twitter.