By Patricia Reaney
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Ryan Gosling's latest film, "Only God Forgives," has deeply divided critics and the Canadian actor concedes that the blood-spattered crime thriller set in Bangkok's underworld of boxing clubs and brothels may not appeal to everyone.
"The film is kind of like a drug," the former child star who appeared on "The Mickey Mouse Club" TV show, told reporters ahead of the film's opening in U.S. theaters on Friday.
"You either have a good trip or a bad trip."
For critics at the Cannes Film Festival, where the film -written and directed by Denmark's Nicolas Winding Refn - was shown in May, it was a bit of both. It prompted boos and sent some critics scurrying from the press screening, while others praised the film's artistic merits.
With its minimal dialogue and gruesome scenes of torture and bloodletting, the highly stylized film is not for the squeamish.
The Hollywood Reporter described it as a "menacingly atmospheric mood piece that will not disappoint devotees of the Nicolas Winding Refn church of fetishistic hyper-violence."
Variety's Peter Debruge called it "an exercise in supreme style and minimal substance," and Keith Uhlich, of Time Out New York magazine, said Refn "clearly thinks he's saying something profound with this laboriously overproduced dross."
The film offered an opportunity for Gosling, who was nominated for a best actor Oscar in 2007 for the drama "Half Nelson" and starred in "Lars and the Real Girl" and "Blue Valentine," to reunite with Refn.
The pair collaborated on the 2011 art-house drama "Drive," which earned a best director award for Refn at Cannes.
"I wanted to work with Nicolas," Gosling said, adding that for Refn the violent tone of the film is "part of the language which he uses to communicate."
Gosling, 32, plays Julian, a brooding American fugitive in Bangkok who runs a boxing club as a front for his drug business. After his brother is killed for murdering a young Thai prostitute, his gangster mother, played by British actress Kristin Scott Thomas, arrives in Bangkok and demands bloody revenge.
But a mysterious, sword-wielding former policeman with a penchant for chopping off body parts has other plans.
The role was a departure for Scott Thomas, who is best known for portraying haughty, stylish women in films such as "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and "The English Patient."
Sporting long blonde hair, heavy makeup and stilettos, Scott Thomas said the makeover helped her get into the character.
"The violence is very, very shocking but it is more than the physical, gory special effects type of violence," she said in an interview. "There is also a really deeply violent and disturbing story to it with the relationship between the mother and the son."
"It is like being in a nightmare. You get sucked in and manipulated. I think it is a very powerful film."
Gosling, who has achieved cult status online and even inspired a coloring book, said Refn shot the film chronologically so the cast was not really sure of the movie they were making.
"You just sort of go along for the ride," said the actor, who is editing his directorial feature film debut, "How to Catch a Monster," based on his original screenplay and starring Eva Mendes and "Mad Men's" Christina Hendricks.
Unlike the story-driven "Drive," Gosling said "Only God Forgives" is more of an experience and less of a story.
"You give in to the mystery," he said.
(Reporting by Patricia Reaney; Editing by Mary Milliken and Eric Beech)