Julian (Ryan Gosling) runs a boxing club in Bangkok as a front for a drugs operation. He has everything he wants for until his brother is murdered, and his mother (Kristin Scott Thomas), the head of a powerful criminal organisation, arrives to collect her son's body. Furious with grief she dispatches Julian to find his killers and 'raise hell'. The stage is set for a bloody journey of betrayal and vengeance towards a final confrontation and the possibility of redemption.
Only god forgives.
- Only God Forgives review by AR
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You rated this film: 4
Let's start with the fact that this is a split-down-the-middle film. You are going to like it or hate it, there is no middle ground. I have to say l am in the former group.
The film is a violent and bloody revenge thriller bathed in colour and moves at a slow pace that is dream like. Don't expect anything deep here, it's unashamedly style over substance. The film contains a lot of Ryan Gosling staring and people walking slowly, which may try some people's patience.
It's a provocative film that's purpose is to provoke a reaction out of you be it positive of negative.
Drive was a film that was so completely unexpected and wonderful that everyone who saw it was going to be curious about what came next, what director Nicholas Wending Refn could come up with next to top it, if he could. Only God Forgives while featuring the same ideas and the same singular voice is more wrapped up in hidden messages and interpretations that it forgets to make its story even the least bit interesting.
When Julian (Ryan Gosling) is told his brother has been killed he is told he must seek revenge against the people who killed him by his mother Crystal (Kirstin Scott Thomas). While Julian seeks a police officer complicit in his brothers murder he finds himself contemplating his own morality and the effect his family has had on who he is as a person.
It’s almost certainly an interesting watch and it has some breathtaking cinematography as Wending Refn carries over his obsession with neon to give the film a hallucinogenic feel to it. Understandably it makes the film all about interpretation as the film breaths ambiguity as plenty of aspects of the films premise come down to the watchers own sense of morality, of wrong and right.
The main problem with the film isn’t that it's a film designed to be slow as to ask the viewer to really think its that it houses genius, such as the addition of Crystal, a wonderfully vivid and repulsive character who is brought to life perfectly by Scott Thomas. It’s a film that's flawed from the get go thanks to a lead character who is lifeless, characterless, a blank slate clearly envisioned so as to encourage the audience to imagine their own interpretation of Julian. While this isn’t Gosling’s fault it does mean he is essentially giving an effortless performance, not a performance that looks effortless, one that is devoid of any effort.