Friday, 30 August 2013

GFT programme note: Upstream Color

Upstream Color is out today. I saw it at the Edinburgh Film Festival a wee while back and thought it was a bit rubbish. Then I watched it again and decided, ohwaititsactuallynotbadatall. Here's 1000 words on its brain-twisting appeal, written for the Glasgow Film Theatre:


With its fragmented structure and abundant ambiguities, Upstream Color undoubtedly qualifies as what Warren Buckland terms the ‘puzzle plot’. ‘A puzzle plot is intricate in the sense that the arrangement of events is not just complex, but complicated and perplexing’ writes Buckland in the introduction to Puzzle Films: Complex Storytelling in Contemporary Cinema. ‘The events are not simply interwoven, but entangled.’[1] The obvious impetus when confronted with a puzzle plot, then, is to start untangling; to take the text’s adventurous knottiness and start explaining, defining and ordering. Certainly, there is no shortage of such analyses, from articles with pseudo-authoritative titles like ‘Everything you were afraid to ask about Upstream Color[2], to the more tentative questioning of IMDB’s message board users. Perhaps unusually, the film’s writer-director (not to mention lead actor, producer, composer, editor and cinematographer) Shane Carruth has actively contributed to this search for definitive answers, offering concrete solutions to some of the film’s mysteries with apparently minimal prompting – a surprising move in as much as filmmakers who take pains to produce ambiguous art are rarely inclined to narrow the interpretive field in interview.

One thing that is clearly borne out by such discussions, however, is that the sui generis Upstream Color has a firm internal logic, and can be mapped onto a classical narrative through repeated viewings. Indeed, as one of the aforementioned articles notes, rather than spoil the movie, knowing ‘how the film works in advance… might just save the diligent viewer a return trip to the theatre.’[3] This of course presupposes that solving mysteries is the ‘correct’ reaction to a film of this nature – a presupposition likely influenced by Carruth’s reputation, which prior to Upstream Color rested on a single film. Though not addressed at length in the pages of the aforementioned Puzzle Films, 2004’s Primer is arguably the sub-genre’s epitome: a low-budget time-travel film that is both densely complex yet, according to those who have charted and cross-referenced its scenes with forensic detail, wholly coherent. Impenetrable on first watch then incrementally clearer on every revisit, Primer is the puzzle film as mathematical formula – a film as confusing to the layman as an elaborate algorithm, yet precise enough to all add up on multiple passes.

If Primer’s complexity was mathematical in character, Upstream Color’s is biological. There’s still a scientific patina to proceedings, but like nature itself, its complexity is messier, more unknown, and less neatly resolvable. For example, the life-cycle that drives the narrative is a microcosm of interdependency: a parasite moves from orchid to human to pig and back, with each step dependent on actions that take place figuratively (and in one case literally) ‘upstream’. The cycle also offers – in keeping with conventional narrative expectations – a clear causality: A begets B begets C. But in other ways, Upstream Color wilfully clouds cause and effect – most notably in the mysterious connection that exists between the pigs and their human counterparts. Instead of causality, here we appear to have synchronicity in the Jungian sense: the meaningful co-incidence of two causally unconnected physical or psychological events. This logic is most apparent in the scene where Kris and Jeff are left intensely distressed by the experiences of their spatially distant hog doubles, the former sobbing uncontrollably and the latter lashing out with primal anger for reasons neither can satisfactorily explain.

There is also, however, another possibility: that rather than being absent, the causality of this relationship is simply beyond our current comprehension. In an interview with Indiewire, Carruth adapts Arthur C Clarke’s aphorism ‘any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic’ to propose that, since there is so much we do not understand about life, the Universe, even our own bodies, what appears impossible may be merely as-yet-undiscovered.[4] The implication is that, in the same way that a century ago we had no concept of, say, the mind-boggling behaviour of subatomic particles (indeed, the majority of us still don’t…), so too an interspecies, parasite-instigated psychic connection seems causally inconceivable but only because we haven’t yet discovered the logic that underpins it – making Upstream Color science-fiction in the truest sense: imaginative, but grounded in a degree of plausibility.

Whether viewers are content to have Upstream Color’s kaleidoscope of thematic resonances pared away to leave only a somewhat conventional bio-horror is another matter. Synopses of the film will list the whats, whens and at least some of the whys, but it remains our prerogative whether to take these as sufficient explanation or graft on more adventurously metaphorical interpretations: for instance, there is ample potential for a reading that locates in the characters of The Thief and The Sampler an allegory for divine conflict, with the former exploiting weaknesses and manipulating victims, and the latter tending his flock (or, more accurately, herd) and working in mysterious ways – a reading that takes on a Nietzschean flavour in the final act. And, while Carruth himself may have some fairly clear ideas about what the film is and what it represents, he’s at least accepting of alternative interpretations. In an interview with Slash Film, he recollects: ‘Somebody asked me if it was about the pharmaceutical industry and I had to admit that ‘Well, no it’s not... It’s more about how it can feel like we are being affected by things off screen or far away that we can’t quite know about or understand’… they said, ‘well yeah, but with people taking these drugs they don’t quite know if they are affecting them or not’ and I was like ‘I guess that’s true then’.’[5]

Or, in other words: make of it what you will.

Christopher Buckle
Researcher and journalist
August 2013

[1] Warren Buckland (2009) ‘Introduction: Puzzle Plots’, from Puzzle Films: Complex Storytelling in Contemporary Cinema (Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester) p. 3

[2] Daniel D’Addario (2013) ‘Everything you were too afraid to ask about ‘Upstream Color’’, Salon, accessed 27/08 at

[3] ibid

[4] Jessica Kiang (2013) ‘Interview: Shane Carruth Reveals the Mysteries of ‘Upstream Color’’, Indiewire, accessed 27/08/13 at

[5] Russ Fischer (2013) ‘Film Interview: ‘Upstream Color’ Creator Shane Carruth’, Slash Film, accessed 28/08/13 at

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

reviews: Volcano Choir, Múm, Alpha Male Tea Party

                                                Volcano Choir – Repave

Volcano Choir - Unpave (****)

Emerging in For Emma…’s slipstream, Volcano Choir’s 2009 debut couldn’t help but be framed in relation to Justin Vernon’s other creative outlet. With its prominent electronics and poppier bent, Unmap was received in some quarters as Vernon’s Give Up, but any comparisons with the Death Cab/Postal Service dyad must surely expire with the arrival of Repave. Not only does Volcano Choir’s recorded output now match Bon Iver two-for-two, but the quality and clarity of these eight tracks makes it difficult to justify its relegation to the status of junior partner.

Credit is of course due to the band’s non-Vernon contingent (current and former members of Collections of Colonies of Bees), who wind back the glitches and deliver something more straightforwardly anthemic this time out – for instance, Acetate’s group-sung coda. But with his characteristic vocals front and centre, Vernon remains pivotal to the end result’s success; may his muse continue to be dual-fed for years to come.
Out 2nd September

                                               Múm – Smilewound

Múm - Smilewound (****)

Six albums in, and Múm’s combination of live instrumentation, ethereal harmonies and digital fixings has birthed another cracker. Opener Toothwheels showcases their now-familiar trick of sounding sparse despite stuffing all manner of attractive bits and pieces into the mix, and they maintain this subtle balance throughout, filling their arrangements with bountiful nuances without rendering their songwriting a barrage of quirks.

There’s a satisfying tangibility to tracks like Sweet Impressions, in which robust drums contrast nicely with the brittle beats elsewhere, while Time to Scream and Shout demonstrates their undiminished way with an alt-lullaby. Then, as if to gild their emergent pop credentials, Smilewound closes with something guaranteed to bend ears outside the Icelandic band’s usual catchment: a Kylie collaboration that marries Miss Minogue’s breathy vocals to a soaring mix of tom rolls and string swells. Elegantly emotive, it warrants immediate entry into the upper tiers of both parties’ respective catalogues.

Out 2nd September

                                             Alpha Male Tea Party – Real Ales & Model Rail: A Lonely Man's Guide to Not Committing Suicide EP

Alpha Male Tea Party - Real Ales and Modern Rail: A Lonely Man's Guide to Not Committing Suicide EP (***)

Applying choppy time signatures to millennial Britrock in the Hell Is for Heroes/Hundred Reasons vein, Alpha Male Tea Party satisfyingly expand upon the raw sounds of debut AMTP on this five-track follow-up. The slow-build post-rock of opener I Don’t Even Like Hollyoaks Anyway creates a strong if ultimately misleading first impression, it’s tuneful sweep downplaying the band’s heavier tendencies.

As it bleeds directly into Taste like Dog, the hefty riffs that are the Liverpool trio’s forte rear up, with erratic rhythms showcasing the band at their most ‘math.’ Also deserving mention is Go To the Ant, You Sluggard: more vocal-led than their usual fare, it’s the track most likely to enlarge their fan-base thanks to a sleekly accessible chorus.
Out now

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

August skinny...

Aye, I know August's just about over, but have a swatch at the issue anyway, yeah?

In Scotland:

In England, a less squished version of this:


My bits:

- Super Adventure Club review the singles (read here!)
- Barbarossa - 'Bloodlines' album review (read here!)
- Kill the Captains - 'Sounds Mean' album review (read here!)
- The Civil Wars - 'The Civil Wars' (read here!)
- Sarah Neufeld - 'Hero Brother' (read here!)
- 'What Maisie Knew' film review (read here!)
- 'The Gatekeepers' DVD review (read here!)

Monday, 26 August 2013

The Dirty Dozen: Super Adventure Club review August's singles...

On a day off from recording their forthcoming third album, Bruce Wallace and Mandy Clarke of Super Adventure Club battle hangovers and heatwaves to debate the summer’s singles. “The horse will be here in 5 minutes” Bruce casually explains, “but we can get started…”

Superchunk – Me & You & Jackie Mittoo [from I Hate Music, out 19th August, Merge]
Mandy: This sounds like American film music – it makes me think of teenagers in the back of a car, and everyone’s dead happy. It’s making my hangover a bit worse… Are they a new band?
The Skinny: Not at all – they’ve been doing this kind of thing since at least the early 90s…
Bruce: That maybe explains it then. It sounds like 90s music – it gives me the same feeling as Semisonic and The Supernaturals and stuff like that. It’s not really my cup of tea – it’s just really squeaky clean. The vocals put me off quite a lot as well. I’m quite particular about vocals.
M: The more I hear this the worse it gets…
B: 4 out of 10.

Washed Out – Don’t Give Up [August 12th, Weird World Records)
B: It sounds like lo-fi Lemon Jelly or something.
M: I loved this when it first came on, [but] it’s a bit, eh, wishy-washy...
B: It’s quite middle of the road… 5?
M: 6?
The Horse, who arrived as the song began: 7?   
B: Nah, I like the overall sound of it, but it isane doing much. Stick with 6.

TRACK OF THE MONTH: Ghostpoet – Cold Win (26th August, Play It Again, Sam)
B: I’ve heard things by Ghostpoet before, I quite like it… [has a wee listen]. Garage is coming back as well, in quite a big way.
M: Is it definitely?
B: It is – gonna do that cover of Sweet like Chocolate aye? [sings said hit’s title]
M: I love that song! I like this too, this is cool.
B: Yeah, it’s good, I like that quite a lot actually. 8.

MONEY – Hold Me Forever (August 12th, Bella Union)
B: The production’s really cool but I’m not really enjoying the tune. There’s something a wee bit Bono about the vocal as well, that’s putting me off.
M: I quite like the way his vocals over-do it a wee bit. Are those steel drums?
Horse: Or marimba?
B: It could just be an effect on the guitar…
M: I think they’d be really good live, with the steel drums.
B: Well it depends if that’s what it is….
M: True – 6, but if there are steel drums, 7.

Deer Tick – The Rock (August 12th, Partisan Records)
M: I think this would sound good at a festival.
B: I’d be intrigued to hear more by them – there are a few surprises, a few bar changes I didn’t expect. It sort of reminds me of Supergrass. 7?
Horse: If that gets a 7, Ghostpoet should get a 9…
B: You’re going to have to change the Horse’s Ghostpoet score now…

Blondes – Elise [from Swisher, out August 6th, RVNG Intl.)
M: This isn’t the sort of music I really listen to, so it’s hard to really rate it.
B: Yeah, it’s alright, but just a 6. [skipping ahead] That’s quite a nice breakdown… This would be nice in a club. Or maybe as the soundtrack to some movie with Ryan Gosling driving around looking moody, where nothing happens. [sighs] I was so disappointed by that film…

Eels – Kinda Fuzzy (September 2nd, E Works/V2)
We try streaming the track from YouTube, but initially get a Kopparberg advert instead.
B: 3 out of 10!
M: I’d love a Kopparberg right now…
The song starts; in the video, E wanders around dressed as a miserable clown.
B: Is that one of Adam and Joe? Wow, he looks different… Well obviously, he does, he’s in clown makeup eh… I like this. Eels kind of just do the same thing, but it’s something I like. Though actually there’s a bit more going on here than in a lot of their stuff. There’s something a bit more lush about this, with a bit more range as well.
M: That’s definitely an 8. His autobiography is amazing – I cried.
B: This makes me want to listen to more Eels.

Nothankyou – Know Yourself (August 5th, Moshi Moshi)
The Skinny: This is a collaboration between Tom Vek and Olga Bell.
B: I kind of like some of Tom Vek’s ideas, but I don’t really like him overall. Who’s the other person?
The Skinny: Olga Bell – she plays keyboards in Dirty Projectors.
B: Ah, right. There’s one Dirty Projectors song that I really love – I can’t remember its name, but it prompted me to check out their other stuff and I was disappointed. This is alright though. I’d be interested to hear more. But I’m going to go for 6, just because I reckon that if I did check their other stuff out it might not be very good. Dunno why, I’m just being utterly biased.
M: But you should be judging just this one song though! I like her voice, it’s cool.
B: Let’s go with 7 for that song then, and 6 for my expectations of what their other stuff will sound like.

Texas – Detroit City (August 12th, [PIAS] Recordings)
M: I hoped they’d stopped. Everyone’s going for that real 80s vibe at the minute eh?
B: Yeah, it kind of sounds like they’re reaching for something current and not really getting it. I quite like early Texas stuff – I think it’s well-crafted pop music. It’s kind of bland but it’s well-put together. But this? This is just… bad. 2.
The Skinny: As someone who used to listen to Superchunk a lot, I’m just glad they’re no longer the lowest scorers…
M: You like them? Ah but you were young then, you didn’t know any better. I used to like Pitchshifter, you know what I mean?
Horse: My worst crime was buying a Linkin Park album…
M: If I could go far enough away, I would probably listen to that quite loudly just now. [sings] ‘craaaaaaawling in my skiiiiiiiin’!

Lovechilde – Sweat Lodge (August 22nd, Rough Trade)
M: It sounds like it’s not finished.
B: I don’t even know what to compare this to. There’s kind of an industrial thing going on, but it’s almost too watery to say that. I don’t have anything to say about this: I just don’t like it.
M: It’s like they’re not all playing the same song.
B: It kind of sounds like music you would get in the club scene in The Crow or something like that. It’s bad.
The Skinny: Texas-level bad?
M: Nah, they definitely feel it, whatever it is…
B: Give it a 3 then.

Bleach Blood – H.O.P.E (August 10th, Transmission Recordings)
B: This is minging. Ab-sol-utely minging.
The Skinny: Apparently it’s about being hungover…
B: It sounds like a hangover – turn it off, it’s really bad.
M: This might tip me over the edge…
B: That gets zero. It starts out like Lightning Seeds and then turns into, I don’t know… a Chumbawumba meets Jennifer Lopez anthem.
The Skinny: That makes it sound kind of awesome…
B: It’s absolutely disgusting.

Disclosure – F For You (August 18th, PMR Records)
B: It sounded like it was maybe going to get interesting for a wee moment there, like Millionaire or someone like that. But nah.
M: That wee techno sound in it is annoying me. Who is this?
The Skinny: Disclosure – they had a number 1 earlier this year with AlunaGeorge.
M: Really? Wow – how does that one go?
We cue up White Noise and get instant, unimpressed recognition.
M: Ah shit, that? Man… I hate this tune.
The Skinny: Actually Wikipedia’s just informed me that I’m mistaken – it was a number 2, not a number 1.
B: It’s a number 2 alright. Their new song can have 4 though.

[written for the August issue of The Skinny]

Sunday, 18 August 2013

film review: What Maisie Knew

An adaption of Henry James’s 19th century novel of the same name, What Maisie Knew has undergone modernising alterations but retains the same pitiable core: a child passed from pillar to post by divorced parents, repeatedly let down by those in whom she places the most trust. Anchoring the film and appearing in every scene, seven-year-old Onata Aprile is superb as the titular moppet, naturalistically weathering the many disruptions and disappointments carelessly sent her character’s way.

As the warring narcissists responsible, meanwhile, Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan play to familiar strengths (displaying neurotic histrionics and haughty arrogance respectively) but never let their roles become two-dimensional monsters; though both parties are deeply selfish, they’re too pathologically pathetic to be boo-hiss hateable. Tonally the film plots a slightly unsteady course, with an encroaching mawkishness taking it a hair’s-breadth from Nicholas Sparks territory. But pat resolutions asides, What Maisie Knew squares its emotions believably, provoking upset and anger at its scenes of collateral damage, but also inspiring respect for the resilience of youth.

Out 23rd August

Saturday, 17 August 2013


1. urge overkill - girl you'll be a woman soon
2. tom tom club - wordy rappinghood
3. the rogers sisters - delayed reaction
4. mates of state - fraud in the 80s
5. parquet courts - borrowed thyme
6. fang island - asunder
7. trans am - play in the summer
8. prince - sign o the times
9. they might be giants - birdhouse in your soul
10. clap your hands say yeah - skin of my yellow country teeth
11. pil - this is not a love song
12. liars - brats
13. the joy formidable - austere
14. sonic youth - teenage riot
15. club 8 - stop wasting my time
16. the angels - my boyfriend's back
17. dusty springfield - i just don't know what to do with myself
18. au revoir simone - sad song
19. friends - mind control
20. the cure - boys don't cry
21. omd - enola gay
22. depeche mode - people are people
23. veronica falls - bad feeling
24. camera obscura - break it you gently
25. rilo kiley - portions for foxes
26. la sera - never come around
27. the crystals - he's sure the boy i love
28. fleetwood mac - big love
29. elo - rockaria!
30. david bowie - 1984
31. the smiths - stop me if you've heard this one before
32. frantic elevators - voices in the dark
33. the replacements - i'll buy
34. yeah yeah yeahs - pin
35. soreng santi - kuen kuen lueng lueng
36. dead kennedys - california uber alles
37. tears for fears - everybody wants to rule the world
38. talking heads - radio head
39. xtc - life begins at the hop
40. roxy music - virginia plain
41. rem - radio free europe
42. the b-52s - private idaho
43. ladybirds - shimmy shimmy dang
44. the hollies - just one look
45. ike and tina turner - nutbush city limits
46. the clash - the magnificent seven
47. fleetwood mac - everywhere
48. secret affair - time for action
49. franz ferdinand - matinee
50. the modern lovers - government centre
51. the replacements - bastards of young
52. the ramones - the kkk took my baby away
53. edwyn collins - don't shilly shally
54. interpol - slow hands
55. ash - burn baby burn
56. elton john - kiss the bride
57. pixies - debaser
58. lcd soundsystem - all my friends
59. hot butter - popcorn
60. hot chip - one life stand
61. men without hats - the safety dance
62. yazoo - nobody's dairy
63. blondie - call me
64. echo and the bunnymen - lips like sugar
65. pulp - disco 2000
66. bruce springsteen - glory days
67. weezer - undone (the sweater song)
68. elvis - suspicious minds

and, by popular demand,

69. fleetwood mac - the chain


Thursday, 8 August 2013

reviews: Sarah Neufeld, Adrian Corker, Kill the Captains

                                                   Sarah Neufeld – Hero Brother

Sarah Neufeld - Hero Brother (****)

Best known as violinist in Arcade Fire but having also supplied her talents to Bell Orchestre and The Luyas, Sarah Neufeld’s debut solo album is a natural fit for the Constellation Records roster (home of Godspeed et al). Across Hero Brother’s ten compositions – each consisting almost exclusively of layered violin playing – her often avant-garde instrumentals prove nuanced and haunting, triggering unexpectedly intense emotional responses from a minimalist setup.

From the light, airy ‘ooohs’ that settle across They Live On’s dusty pizzicato repetitions to the gentle piano trickles offsetting Forcelessness’s piercing, descending refrain, Neufeld appears to instinctively know when to introduce another texture and when to leave well alone and let her bowing have the spotlight. Whether quivering and echoing on opener Tower, screeching and wailing through Dirt, or frenziedly skipping through Sprinter Fire, Neufeld revels in her instrument’s versatility, ensuring Hero Brother an appeal beyond its ostensible niche.

Out 19th August

                                                    Adrian Corker – Raise

Adrian Corker - Raise (***)

Flecked with crackles, creaks, taps and clicks, Raise is an evocative listen filled with enriching experimental asides – from the analogue tape manipulations of Unfold to the miasmic strings of Shifting Grains. With a background in soundtracks (including scores for most of director Antonia Bird’s features) Adrian Corker has past form crafting absorbing atmospherics, though without some kind of visual or narrative accompaniment, some of these compositions arguably want for a focal point; while every track contributes to the album’s meditative tone, some offer only minimal pleasures in and of themselves.

Amongst its languorous drift are enough moments of glittering, enigmatic brilliance to win considerable favour, including Circle Song – in which Corker is joined by members of Portico Quartet for a mournful, jazzy shuffle across a sparse percussive backdrop – and closing piano piece Interdependence, which ends things on just the right note of ambient beauty.

Out 19th August   
                                                           Kill the Captains – Sounds Mean

Kill the Captains - Sounds Mean (***)

Pleasingly difficult to pin down, Kill the Captains’ second album Sounds Mean skips around pigeonholes dextrously and with a discernible sense of humour. With darting melodies, wonky guitar lines and vocalist Leon Carter’s upfront croon, the Sheffield quartet veer from propulsive dance-punk (Disco Nazi) to chugging, rough-edged indie-rock (The Trial) to straight-up hushed balladry (The Taking Of) – each appealing in its own way, and together giving a good account of the band’s diverse interests.

Admittedly, once you grab hold of the slippery so-and-so and give it a proper gander, some of the introductory thrills subside somewhat, as a handful of tracks reveal their plodding side while occasionally clumsy lyrics start to grate on repeat exposure (in particular, Share the Load’s geopolitical sloganeering – a neat idea, awkwardly executed). Better to focus on the tracks of more unequivocal merit, with opener Umami proving especially enjoyable thanks to its quirk-filled midpoint breakdown.

Out 12th August

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

dvd review: The Gatekeepers

The Gatekeeper

 Even by intelligence agency standards, Israel’s Shin Bet is a secretive institution, with its ranks anonymous and its accountability murky. The only members whose identities are publicly known are the select few to have occupied the top job of director – a position of power in which every decision has the potential to radically alter the geopolitical landscape. In The Gatekeepers, filmmaker Dror Moreh interviews six former directors, and their candid disclosures are both fascinating and disheartening.

Using source footage, Moreh plots a narrative of powder-keg relations starting with the Six-Day War; a history of assassinations and air strikes, illegal settlements and intifadas. Throughout, the tone is cool and collected (one testy exchange over the killing of handcuffed prisoners aside), with interviewees tending to frame their decisions pragmatically, and demonstrating comparatively little patience for emotional or moral examination (an attitude that in itself is revealing). Committedly averse to drawing glib conclusions, The Gatekeepers is a weighty contribution to an ever-pressing debate.

Out 12th August

Tuesday, 6 August 2013


LOADS of notable things have happened on 16 August over the years:

The Ramones played their first show at CBGB (1974)
Elvis Presley died (1977)
China overtook Japan as the world's second-biggest economy (2010)

Here's another one: bottle rocket! We're back at the Flying Duck for another round of indie, pop, new wave and stuff like that. And toast.

This is the situation:

11pm - 3am!!!
FREE!!! (if you're down before 11pm, £5/£4 thereafter)

Friday, 2 August 2013

review: Only God Forgives

While it’s the success of Drive that will stoke most interest in this director/star reunion (drenched like its forebear in slick neon, and with Ryan Gosling reprising his moody anti-performance), it’s to Nicolas Winding Refn’s earlier work that Only God Forgives speaks loudest. A Bangkok-set tale of terrible crimes and horrific punishments, its oneiric odyssey closely compares with hellish Viking drama Valhalla Rising (right down to the prophesying interludes), while its pervasively bleak view of human nature harks back to calling-card works like Bleeder.

Step back and survey its surfaces, however, and Only God Forgives appears very much its own beast. Every frame is meticulously designed, with slats of darkness and throbbing reds shading every grim motel and midnight city street a diabolical hue, working with Cliff Martinez’s creeping score to maximise this violent saga’s impact. Unfortunately, surfaces are about all the film has to offer. Ponderous dialogue swerves into self-parody, while frequent scenes of dismemberment and suchlike bore rather than appall, making it difficult to care who slices who in its escalating litany of ultra-violence. Its visceral visions are too stylishly realised for Only God Forgives to go down as an abject failure, but it comes disappointingly close.

Out today

[written for The Skinny]