Awards Profile: Only God Forgives

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Directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn
Written by: Nicolas Winding Refn

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Yayaying, Vithaya Pansringarm, and Oak Keerati are the only known cast members as of this posting.

Synopsis (the supposed Official Synopsis from various internet sites): Bangkok. Ten years ago Julian killed a cop and went on the run. Now he manages a Thai boxing club as a front for a drugs operation. Respected in the criminal underworld, deep inside, he feels empty.

When Julian’s brother murders a prostitute the police call on retired cop Chang – the Angel of Vengeance. Chang allows the father to kill his daughter’s murderer, then ‘restores order’ by chopping off the man’s right hand.

Julian’s mother Jenna – the head of a powerful criminal organization – arrives in Bangkok to collect her son’s body. She dispatches Julian to find his killers and ‘raise hell’.

Increasingly obsessed with the Angel of Vengeance, Julian challenges him to a boxing match, hoping that by defeating him he might find spiritual release… but Chang triumphs. A furious Jenna plots revenge and the stage is set for a bloody journey through betrayal and vengeance towards a final confrontation and the possibility of redemption.

Why It Could Succeed:
Coming off of the cult favorite ‘Drive’ (also a critical darling, if a big Oscar snub come nomination morning), any reuniting of filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn and actor Ryan Gosling was going to draw major notice. Throw in another pulpy yet hip genre work potentially at hand (the mini plot summary from IMDb says it’s about the following: “A Bangkok police lieutenant and a gangster settle their differences in a Thai-boxing match”), alongside a supporting cast that includes Kristin Scott Thomas, and what do you have? Well, one of the more intriguing Oscar hopefuls of 2012, to be sure. Winding Refn and Gosling are potentially an actor/director team that could one day rival the greats, so if they build on what they started in ‘Drive’ (and perhaps will continue next in the remake of ‘Logan’s Run’, among other projects the two have discussed…including a romantic comedy set in New York City), then something borderline remarkable could be on hand. Adding Scott Thomas to the proceedings only makes a film better, and this is likely no exception. As for Ryan Gosling, well…I’ve certainly written a lot about him in the past couple of years (especially this profile I wrote last year on his career), but I’ll say it again. Gosling is one of the very best actors working today, and constantly picks unique and challenging roles in mostly superb films. His presence has become a mark of quality on a project. The rest of the cast is somewhat of a mystery here, but that leads to some pleasant surprises when the mixture is right, and it’s looking promising here (especially for Gosling and Scott Thomas, who could have some great roles to play with if perception equals reality), and this doesn’t even factor in how talented Winding Refn is and how he seems to be hitting his stride right about now. If everything works here (and early indications are good, if mysterious), we could have another audience and critical darling looking to knock on Oscar’s door. It’s hardly the biggest or highest profile title in the 2012 field, but it’s certainly among the most unusual ones.

Why It Could Fail:
It’s not unreasonable to assume that this is an even less mainstream work than ‘Drive’, and if the Academy only bestowed one afterthought of a tech nod to that flick, what chance does this movie actually have? The chances of it getting the attention of the Academy are slimmer than I’d like to hope for. Gosling only has one nomination to date despite a half dozen worthy roles that he’s essayed in his career, Scott Thomas only has one as well, and Winding Refn is still an emerging filmmaker to most voters. All of these elements work together not to make a bad film, and in fact likely a terrific one, but a distinctly Academy-unfriendly one. It doesn’t help that super cult filmmaker Gaspar Noe has been hanging out on set and may or may not have had some level of influence on the production (apparently on ‘Drive’ he advised Winding Refn on how to bash in a head properly). Noe is many things, but someone who’s sensibilities match up with Oscar voters is certainly not among them. Perhaps he won’t factor into things at all, but it just adds another thing to the stack that the film is up against in order to get any sort of awards traction. I don’t think anyone will botch their work, but it might be hard to top ‘Drive’, if only due to heightened expectations. Things certainly aren’t really in the movie’s favor overall, but I’ll say this…it’s another contender that’s got a lot of mystery surrounding it.

Awards Speculation:
If the flick is to make any real awards play, I’d guess that it’ll be in the acting categories. Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay are long shots that will only be even a pipe dream if the film is a real hit and a success across the board. As for the techs, they’re possible, but hardly a likely scenario. That leaves Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress. Ryan Gosling will be a strong presence in the Best Actor category between this and the upcoming ‘The Place Beyond the Pines’ (we’ll be covering that film in a later Profile, so stay tuned there), but he could again split his vote or see more votes go to his second collaboration with his ‘Blue Valentine’ director as opposed to here with his ‘Drive’ director. As for Supporting Actor, either Oak Keerati or Vithaya Pansringarm could make a play, but they’ll have uphill battles. Honestly, the best chance for ‘Only God Forgives’ to be nominated for an Academy Award is in the Best Supporting Actress field. Kristin Scott Thomas has a juicy role to sink her teeth into, and not only is she a top tier contender for Supporting Actress, she could even be one of the early frontrunners to win the Oscar. We obviously don’t know much now, but the potential for a nomination or two is certainly there…stay tuned!

The film is scheduled to be released at some point during the 2012 awards season and is being distributed through The Weinstein Company’s newest shingle RaDiUS-TWC.

Oscar Potential:
Best Picture
Best Director (Nicolas Winding Refn)
Best Actor (Ryan Gosling)
Best Supporting Actor (Oak Keerati or Vithaya Pansringarm)
Best Supporting Actress (Kristin Scott Thomas)
Best Original Screenplay (Nicolas Winding Refn)
Best Art Direction
Best Cinematography
Best Film Editing

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