“Only God Forgives” is the kind of remarkable disaster only a very talented director can make after he finds success and is then allowed to do whatever he wants.
The director is Nicolas Winding Refn, the success was 2011’s “Drive,” and with this follow-up — again starring Refn’s existential stand-in, Ryan Gosling — he retreats deep into the crannies of his own head. It’s a gruesome East-meets-West revenge thriller that plays out at a narcotized 16 r.p.m., whose characters (with the notable exception of Kristin Scott Thomas as a savage gangland matriarch) move through their paces like zombies, and whose attitudes toward Asians and women are specious at best, cluelessly offensive at worst. Yet on a purely formal level, “Only God Forgives” glows with foreboding and dread. Full story for BostonGlobe.com subscribers.