Excerpt: As part of the financing for Drive , director Nicolas Winding Refn committed to making a second movie. That second movie was Only God Forgives , a nearly silent film starring Ryan Gosling, relying heavily on a steady electronic score from composer Cliff Martinez. Drive was a slick car thriller from the director, marking him as a hot name to follow in cinematic circles. Only God Forgives is a violent and bizarre tale, set in the gritty underbelly of Bangkok.
Summary: Though the film may not have met my initial expectations, the film still is a refreshing piece of violent art in an era of filmmaking where the directors are afraid to take chances and when studios are looking for the next remake or sequel. I find it hard to say I recommend this, because the audience that will appreciate this is very small, but if you are looking for an intelligent action film that will challenge you, I’d give this a try.
Conclusion: Nicolas Winding Refn opts for far more style than substance in Only God Forgives , which renders it a major disappointment following the highly enjoyable Drive . One hopes his considerable directing talents are applied to something less violent and more meaningful in the near-future.
Conclusion: Simultaneously booed and lauded at Cannes, Only God Forgives is a beautifully shot film of questionable substance from Nicolas Winding Refn and actor Ryan Gosling. Every frame is perfectly lensed in this neon-tinged Thai nightmare about a drug dealer who avenges his brother's murder, but the characters are ugly and the narrative purposely vacant. Kristin Scott Thomas steals her scenes as a trashy chic mother wolf with a violent streak. A curiosity to be sure. .
Excerpt: Set in a sweaty Bangkok, within a heat-lamp palette of harsh reds and blacks, Only God Forgives starts out in hell, then pushes even further into demonic darkness, resolutely growing more stifling and sinister. It's a far cry from the daydream buoyancy of Drive , which despite its copious violence was still a glimmering bauble, a goofy, gory riff on ideals of heroism filtered through a hodgepodge of fetish symbols and basic Freudian themes.
Summary: Only God Forgives is as stylish and remarkably violent as it is genuinely moving and thought provoking. This is more than just beautifully photographed exotic bloodshed if you’re willing to look beneath the surface and despite the similarities to Drive it sees both Refn and Gosling going in different directions than they did in that earlier film.
Conclusion: From Nicolas Winding Refn, if you're expecting another film that matches up with 'Drive,' prepare yourself for disappointment. 'Only God Forgives' may have the strong filmmaking qualities that we wish every film carried, but the story itself is messy and missing several key elements that connect us to the characters and story. The exquisite style compensates for the narrative flaws, but not enough to satisfy.
Excerpt: Ryan Gosling can smile, right? Because I think I’ve seen him smile in a movie before and I’m quite sure that he’s capable of doing it again. Ok, so maybe he doesn’t smile in Only God Forgives , but I have to believe that in the future some director will say “Hey Ryan, show us those pearly whites of yours!” and he’ll force the atrophied muscles around his mouth to produce a smile. It’s got to happen.
Conclusion: Only God Forgives is a brutally violent but stylistically captivating film that's layered beyond its surface. The problem is that said surface is so refined, so beautiful that it's sometimes difficult to see the deeper themes and meaning underneath. Multiple viewings open up the film and a second proves much more satisfying than the first when it's a bit easier to look beyond the style and find the other pieces yearning to be discovered therein.