Only God Forgives – A Review

OGF4

Given the mixed opinions about this highly anticipated film, I decided to go and see this one with absolutely no preconceived ideas that I might be treated to a second helping of the brilliance that was Drive. I needn’t have worried about any of my preconceived notions, because after the first twenty minutes, it became more than apparent that the audience, unfortunately, was not going to get anything like that.  Only God Forgives sees man of the moment Ryan Gosling reunited with Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn, who gave him the coolest role of his career as the wheelman of the much vaunted, critically acclaimed Drive. Their collaboration however, is the only similar thing about their second outing, which definitely lacks the mainstream appeal of their first project.

Now, I knew right from the start that I was in for a completely different movie, so it’s not that I’ll attempt to compare the two, but as a stand alone, Only God Forgives is extremely lacking in many ways. Even against the gorgeous back drop of some stunning cinematography, a haunting musical score and some stand out moments and characters; the paper thin plot and (often expressionless) faces of the actors leaves the viewers little time to ease in to them, and their bloody and brutal environment.

OGF5

Set in Bangkok’s dark underworld, Gosling plays Julian, the American owner of a kick-boxing gym that’s a front for his drug-dealing business. Co-run by his lowlife brother Billy, the first few scenes see him commit some horrendous acts, which ultimately get Julian embroiled in a violent blood fest which, quite frankly, seems never ending. Many of the characters seem quite content to submit to this violence, in what appears to be some unspoken law of the underworld.  Nonetheless, the viewer gets initially drawn in by some conventional enough beginnings, which end as soon as we’re introduced to a terrifying Thai policeman (he’s called Chang in the production notes, but is never actually named in the film), that can exact revenge and wield a knife with such brutality that he would put The Bride herself to shame. He’s on the same revenge seeking mission as Julian at the start, and it doesn’t take too long before they both come face to face (and one of them gets his ass kicked). Considering himself to be God’s representative on Earth, he’s dressed all in black and believed by everyone around him to be an avenging angel, who incidentally, moonlights as a karaoke singer with a particular taste for romantic love songs in his spare time. His own sense of twisted logic results in some of the most graphic and violent scenes in the film, but he’s one of the few characters to have some actual presence on screen.

OGF2

Another one of these characters is Julian’s mother, Crystal. Its she, as a foul mouthed mother figure with a lot of platinum locks, who is the catalyst for the vast majority of the bloody acts committed. She demands revenge for her first borns death and sets in motion, many a thing she’ll come to regret later. She’s without a doubt, a brilliantly monstrous character and completely tears up the screen. And the greatest surprise about her? That she’s played by the usually subdued Kirstin Scott Thomas in one of the finest roles of her career. Her performance alone is reason enough to give the film a watch. Gosling, though amazing to look at for the females in the audience (I won’t even begin to try and describe some of the slow motion scenes!), leaves little impression (and has little to say) as the quiet central character who leads us through the world of the film (he has said himself that his character is more of an avatar, destined to lead the viewer through the motions rather than act upon them). So all this combined with a thin plot, next to no character development and many unanswered questions, left me confused and bewildered as the credits began to role. It left me wanting to watch it again, but this was to try and make proper sense of it, rather than for enjoyments sake.

Ryan Gosling on set with director Nicolas Winding Refn

Ryan Gosling on set with director Nicolas Winding Refn

The directer (who I’m a massive fan of) has said the film is much like a video game, and he’s right about that. The whole movie is like some warped dream;  slowly taking the reader through a twisted, often beautiful and brutal reality, but unfortunately, even when you wake up, nothing makes a whole lot of sense. Fans that favour the art house genre will most likely love the film, and those that don’t, probably won’t enjoy it much at all, so my advice? For curiosity sake, and a brilliant performance from Scott Thomas, go and see it. But I can’t guarantee you’ll enjoy it all that much.

Has anyone else seen the film? What did you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section!

 

Comments

  1. Thanks for that – excellent review.

    Was planning on seeing it, but think I’ll give it a miss and maybe try find a copy of Sharknado somewhere to keep me entertained…

    😀

  2. John Geraghty says:

    Love it Jen, particularly love this part (summarises the movie very well): “Now, I knew right from the start that I was in for a completely different movie, so it’s not that I’ll attempt to compare the two, but as a stand alone, Only God Forgives is extremely lacking in many ways. Even against the gorgeous back drop of some stunning cinematography, a haunting musical score and some stand out moments and characters; the paper thin plot and (often expressionless) faces of the actors leaves the viewers little time to ease in to them, and their bloody and brutal environment”

    PS just stuck on drive…can’t beat the movie 🙂

Speak Your Mind

*