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On Tuesday night in Brooklyn, a U.S. audience finally got its eyes on “Only God Forgives,” the latest bit of Ryan Gosling-starring moody ultra-violence from Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn that polarized a few months back in Cannes, France. Contrary to the slightly hostile French audiences, moviegoers at a special screening of the film at Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Harvey Theatre were rapt (if also watching through their fingers for a few limb-loosing scenes). That Gosling, who has achieved what counts for folk hero status in the 21st century, was in the house may have had something to do with the mood. Walking the carpet in a climate-control cream Ferragamo suit, not even the press was immune to Gosling’s charm.
“I think we’ve met before; haven’t we?” he asked one starstruck reporter.
“Uh, I’m not sure,” the woman answered. “I think I would remember.”
The new movie reunited Gosling with Refn. The pair last worked together on 2011’s “Drive.” Both films are characterized more by silence than words. Gosling’s character says maybe a dozen full sentences in the new film. The actor plays a boxing promoter and drug pusher in Bangkok manipulated into avenging the murder of his brother after relentless harps from his vindictive, controlling mother played by Kristin Scott Thomas in a nuclear-level feat of against-type casting.
“I didn’t know what kind of a trip I was going to go on this film. I just knew it was going to be a silent one…an internal one,” the actor said in during a Q&A following the screening, held before a full house of mostly young people and a few budding actors and directors.
Refn explained that he sought input from the actors. Gosling contributed to the script. Thomas developed the visual aesthetic for her character, a Lady Macbeth and Donatella Versace hybrid, she said.
“It was fun and debilitating because to have to be so negative all the time was quite exhausting,” Thomas said of her character’s many unprintable one-liners on the red carpet. “But at the same time, it was thrilling to let rip and to be as dragonlike as I possibly could.”