Friday, July 26, 2013

Movie Review- Only God Forgives

Director Nicolas Winding Refn's latest film, Only God Forgives is both simultaneously brutal and brilliant. Brutal in that it's at times, agonizing to sit through. Brilliant, because it pulls no punches and forces it's audience to not only think, but often fend for themselves. The end result is an absolutely haunting cinematic experience. This film is not for the faint of heart, or closed minded/intellectually challenged.

There are two undeniable truths about Only God Forgives that need to be addressed. First, it's simply a gorgeous film to look it. Nearly every shot is stunning. The cinematography and camera work on display throughout the film is phenomenal and IMO is worth the price of admission alone. Second, it should to be noted that Only God Forgives is not, and I repeat, IS NOT, a "conventionally" entertaining film by any means. If you go to the movies and want to escape/unwind and have fun, do not see this film. It's about as joyful as a trip to the dentist (I mean sadistic tooth warrior, not Horrible Bosses nympho DDS either). This film is utterly devoid of cinematic staples such as: plot, dialogue, character development, editing and sanity.

So why on Earth would anyone want to see Only God Forgives? Because it's damn good that's why. Only God Forgives appears to be Refn's knee-jerk reaction to the success of his 2011 breakthrough film Drive. While Drive was like a modern day fairytale, with it's dreamy atmosphere and soundscapes, Only God Forgives is a straight up nightmare. Refn has gone on record saying:
"...if Drive was really good cocaine...then Only God Forgives is great acid."
 That describes the film in a nutshell folks. It's a gloriously dark acid freakout. Throw everything (including taste) out the window and just prepare yourself for tons of blood, guts, dark hallways. excruciatingly long closeups and ass loads of karaoke.  That and one of the most oddball surrealist stories I've seen in theaters...but more on that after the trailer (cuz SPOILERS ya know?).

Watching Only God Forgives wasn't a fun night at the movies. It felt more like homework, analyzing Refn's art house drug experiment push the boundaries of story telling. Film is ultimately a visual medium, it's simply moving pictures after all, and by film's end Only God Forgives, with it's minimal dialogue, emphasis on symbolic imagery and Cliff Martinez's BRILLIANT score, hammers that home in spades. For that I'd say Refn's latest film is a rousing success...and totally fucked up.

WARNING: *SPOILERS* So here's the rundown to Only God Forgives' story (or my interpretation at least).

Chang, the police official with the wicked sword is God. He literally sees and knows all that goes on within Bangkok and dispenses Old Testament style justice as needed. Ryan Gosling's Julian character is haunted by his fucked past/family, especially his mafia/incestuous lovin' mother (who just might literally be the devil). He's angry about his lot in life and wants to change but due to his "troubled " upbringing he can't escape his family and their criminal/evil life. At one point Julian tries to defend his mother and fight Chang and naturally gets his ass can't fight God and win. Eventually Julian proves he's not a despicable soul like the rest of his family and is "forgiven" by God in typical Refn, aka utterly twisted, fashion.

If you saw the film and didn't catch any of that maybe seeing it again with this understanding might change your opinion. That or you still hate it because it's a painful, agonizing mess. Who knows?


  1. Haven't seen it yet, but it sounds like a trip. After Drive have to give it a go

  2. It does sound like a pretty weird flick. I feel sorry for people who go see it because it has Gosling in it as he has quite a large fanbase who probably wouldn't like what this sounds like.

  3. This sounds like quite something that's worth going to see to be honest, it's a little different but that's not always a bad thing.

  4. I skipped the spoilers. I want to see this one. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

  5. i really agree with everything you said and love it that you liked the film.

  6. Well, Drive was certainly a fine film, so I'll definitely check this out.

  7. Nope, not falling for this again. Still need to recover from "drive" .