Only God Forgives

Fans of ‘Drive’ and even to a certain extent Ryan Gosling can look away now because this is Nicolas Winding Refn’s film. It is closer in tone to Valhalla Rising and he hasn’t pandered to the audience expectation, anyone expecting Drive 2 will probably be disappointed. Uber stylish, lavish colour palette, very few words and some graphic violence make this film feel like Terrence Malick meets ‘Enter The Void’. There is the odd clichéd frame but for the most part the cinematography is stunning and aided by the rich colours means the scenery and atmosphere are as much a part of the film as any of the main characters. Gosling, as Julian, only speaks seventeen lines in the whole film and what is lacking in dialogue is made up for in mood, the film is starkly tense, but his performance isn’t the strongest in the movie. That accolade is shared between Vithaya Pansringarm as Chang the sword wielding angel of death and in a completely out of character turn by Kristin Scott Thomas as Julian’s twisted, foul mouthed mother. You will have not seen her like this before and may not again; even Refn didn’t think she would agree after reading the expletive laden script. As with previous Refn films the music plays a big part and here Cliff Martinez’s score enhances the overall feel to great effect. Murder, prostitution, redemption, vengeance and the afore mentioned violence will certainly put some off, as will the seemingly lack of story, but if you are prepared to go with Refn’s vision you will be rewarded with one of the best films of the year.


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2 Responses to Only God Forgives

  1. Silver Price says:

    The surest way to differentiate Only God Forgives from its predecessor is to say Drive was a Ryan Gosling movie directed by Winding Refn, and this time the tables have turned: Gosling is making a guest appearance in a Winding Refn movie. These can be bloody, arty, baffling affairs, but most of all they deal with issues of conscience— and it’s worth noting that his key films (Pusher, Bronson and Drive) deal with masculinity, whether in crisis or not. They also feature near-silent antiheroes, and here that role is played not by Gosling but the extraordinary Vithaya Pansringarm as the nameless Angel Of Vengeance, a supernatural cop who inexplicably pulls a bushido sword from his shoulder blades, dispensing swift and painful justice. The backbone of the film, the Angel is summoned from Julian’s warped subconscious as he deals with the fallout from his dysfunctional and psychopathic family. How much is real is never made clear; instead, the film plays out as a warped, lysergic High Noon as the hunted and the h(a)unted square up for the final confrontation.

  2. These are monsters in human skin. Even Julian, who seems harmless, is a man capable of violence if someone pushes the right button (He attacks a man for leering at Mai while she’s dancing at a club, and Crystal, who might be cruel but isn’t unreliable, suggests her son might have killed before, leading him to run to Bangkok in the first place). It’s not pretty material, but Winding Refn’s proficiency with narrative shorthand and eye for striking composition make Only God Forgives a troubling—and troublesome—but absorbing nightmare in which death, the film implies, is the only way to wake up from it.

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