2 years after the massive cult-classic ‘Drive’, Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling came back with this new project and, of course, the expectations were pretty high. Eventually, this new movie was really poorly received but I still wanted to check it out. To be honest, I was at first really impressed by the damned thing. Indeed, I thought it was visually really amazing, even more than ‘Drive’. Unfortunately, pretty soon, it turned out that the story was actually really tedious. Apparently, it seemed that they went for some rather mystical vibe but it seriously backfired. Seriously, it was sometimes even rather pathetic (for example, it was rather ridiculous to see each time the policeman popping up his little sword out of nowhere). Concerning Ryan Golsing, he is a fine actor but I’m slowly getting enough of his gimmick of always playing the same kind of silent emotionless pretty boy. Same thing for Kristin Scott Thomas, she gave as usual a very strong performance but her character was so caricatural, so poorly developed, it was rather cringe-inducing to behold. It’s too bad because even though this kind of old tale of revenge has been done to death, it still had some potential but they want for something so sluggish and pretentiously artistic, it barely worked for me. To conclude, fortunately, it looked really amazing so I still think it is worth a look but this movie was definitely a misfire for all the people involved.
Only God Forgives Reviews
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The best part about this film is its cinematography which is incredibly well-made. Every scene is lively, full of vivid colors, and some shots were instantly memorable and memorizing. I certainly can tell that Refn knows how to set up a shot and make it look incredible. Unfortunately, the same praise cannot be said on the plot and acting... or lack thereof. Now, I understand that this is a big artsy film that is going to be filled with themes, symbols, and ideas that I might not understand the first time watching. However, I felt the first two halves were just so slow that I was considering just abandoning the film altogether. Only until the third half did I understand why things were going and then had some enjoyment out of it but I still believe this film has problems. I can't really hate against the acting in the movie as originally I thought Ryan Gosling (whom I praised for his performance in Lars and the Real Girl) was giving a really disappointing performance as Julian, the guy who just stands around with a blank face that could have been played by any random stranger on the street with zero acting chops. However, I don't blame Gosling or the other actors considering how they aren't playing "characters" but just things that are meant to portray ideas and move the plot along. Now, there were a bunch of ideas, themes, and messages that I didn't understand at all like the character of Chang being an Old Testament God and the motif of hands until I decided to check on a few videos "explaining" the plots of this movie. Even when I sort of had an idea what the film was trying to be about there were two main problems that really straight this film from having any kind of enjoyable or rewatch-ability.
One being how the story fails to get across these ideas to the audience which is just bad analysis right there. They also don't get across why these symbols and ideas are so important besides being symbols and recurring motifs; there isn't a real clear message to this film besides the basic "eye for an eye" be-good message. But even if they did manage to get across these themes in the story and present a clear message, they still didn't manage to construct any interesting characters that gave me any kind of interesting in delving into the meanings and ideas of the film. If you don't have characters that you have interest in or care about, then you have no reason to get involved in the story and thus, don't care about rewatching and understanding the subliminal messages in it. Still I do give respect Refn's vision for this story as not only those he provide incredible cinematography to this film but also really tried telling his own story, not caring about what others would think of this content. He managed to get across a good portion of the story without any kind of exposition but through visions and expressions which is always impressive when done right (Although, this one didn't do it perfectly). However, I do believe if Refn had tried making the story make little bit more accessible and presenting characters we could attach ourselves too while still having those artistic elements, he could have made an incredible film that would not have been so polarizing for both critics and audiences.
That being said, I don't really HATE the movie but I am slightly disappointed with how much I didn't really enjoy it. I am significantly less hyped about seeing the praised Drive, although I still will try to check it out when receiving the opportunity. Still if you are interested in checking this film out, I'd say give this film a chance as the very least it will provide one unforgettably unique experience.
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The film follows Julian(Ryan Gosling) after his drug dealing brother is killed and his mega bitch of a mother flies in to Bangkok and demands revenge for his death. It was a pretty good film i understand why some people wouldn't like it but i loved it. Definitely Not as gory as what some of the reviews where saying but i guess the people at Cannes film festival can't handle a little blood. The editing is weird so it's a movie you have to give 100% of your attention to so that you wont get lost. Also everything has a neon light set background in almost every scene which really sets the mood.
Overall i give it a 6.0 definitely going to be re-watching this and buying on blu ray.
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There is an unreasonable amount of expectation surrounding 2013's Only God Forgives, as it's the second collaboration of director Nicolas Winding Refn and star Ryan Gosling after 2011's Drive. Fans of Drive expecting something similar will be disappointed - you see, Drive was in fact more of a gun-for-hire project for Refn, who was called upon to put his distinct audio-visual stamp on a script by James Sallis. Only God Forgives, on the other hand, is a Refn project through-and-through, finding the Danish filmmaker both writing and directing this breathtaking, surreal mood piece which ponders the futility of revenge. The product is destined to be 2013's most polarising motion picture, though this reviewer found the experience utterly absorbing. It's pure art-house all the way through to its core, with deliberate pacing, ambiguous scripting and extended patches of wordless imagery.
In Bangkok, lowlife drug dealer Billy (Tom Burke) rapes and kills a 16-year-old prostitute, leading to his murder at the hands of the girl's father, spurred on by corrupt police captain Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm). Billy's brother Julian (Gosling) is compelled into a vendetta of vengeance, which is further fuelled by the arrival of the boys' mother Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas). Crystal demands bloodshed in response to Billy's murder, but this only provokes more violence, attracting Chang's attention as he transforms into a relentless machine. Amid the carnage, Julian finds solace in the company of young dancer Mai (Yayaying Rhatha Phongam).
Only God Forgives is irretrievably dark, with a sense of dread and malevolence pervading every frame. Mainstream viewers are advised to steer clear, as Refn is not interested in selling tickets to you; this is an exquisitely stylish but methodically slow neo-noir tour through Thailand's criminal underworld. It further demonstrates Refn's unique modus operandi, as it's another tale of a broken loner trying to navigate the savage world in which he resides. The film is unadulterated madness, and Refn gives us ample time to observe the horrors and poses, supported by a superbly atmospheric score by Drive composer Cliff Martinez. The music amplifies the experience and enhances the tone, affording an orchestral voice to a movie that's light on dialogue. Indeed, Only God Forgives prefers to show rather than tell. And what a show!
Refn's idiosyncrasies as a filmmaker are unique and distinctive; anyone familiar with Drive or the Pusher movies will recognise his proclivity for extended pauses, stylish photography, short bursts of vicious violence, and a refusal to close on a definitive note. Shot on location in Bangkok, Only God Forgives benefits from its authentic flavour, as characters often speak in their foreign dialect and the depiction of Thailand is not American-ised to any degree. Being a Refn production, there are scenes of bloodshed, and they are both ferocious and perfectly executed. Bodies are sliced open and people are tortured in borderline unspeakable ways, and Refn lets us observe in graphic detail, though he manages the remarkable feat of being tasteful. A less skilful filmmaker would elect the overt torture porn approach, but Refn knows when to cut away, imbuing Only God Forgives with a rare sense of class. It's not that Refn was too scared to show everything - it's that he was astute enough to not cross the line into bad taste, and some occurrences here are so horrifying that mere implication is disturbing enough. It genuinely feels as if every audio-visual component of Only God Forgives was subject to heavy deliberation. A cinema screening is the best way to experience it, as you're more able to absorb the tremendous craftsmanship.
Not everything in Refn's script gels, however, leading to scenes that either go too far (some of the symbolism is fairly heavy-handed) or simply make no sense beyond gratuitous shock value (Julian mutilates a character's dead body in a completely baffling moment). Suffice it to say, Refn's style denies a strong human element, meaning emotional investment is impossible. Only God Forgives doesn't engage on a profound level, but that doesn't mean it's shallow; on the contrary, the thoughtfulness and deliberateness of its composition is stunning. It's David Lynch-esque in its construction, with Refn embracing abstract tendencies, blurring the line between reality and fantasy in sequences that explore the emptiness of Julian's soul. A great deal of patience is required to sit through Only God Forgives, particularly whenever Refn's camera returns to a karaoke bar to observe Chang pouring his heart out through singing. Such moments did elicit a few laughs in my screening, but I found the scenes almost unbearably poignant, especially with the knowledge that karaoke singing is a significant aspect of Thai culture.
Gosling may be perceived as the star here, but he's very understated, delivering maybe twenty lines of dialogue throughout the movie's runtime. It's a near-mute performance of nuanced stares, and it's astonishing to see how much emotion he can convey without uttering a word. Gosling doesn't just rehash his Drive persona, though, instead creating a distinct new character for Julian. Equally good is Thomas, who's the complete opposite of Gosling, dispersing vulgar dialogue and never baulking from speaking her mind. She's certainly broad, but it works, as she adds spunk to what's otherwise a wordless staring contest. Even better, though, is newcomer Vithaya Pansringarm, who's absolute dynamite as Chang. He's such an unexpectedly interesting character; one moment he's committing indescribable acts of violence, and the next he's showing his delicate side. Pansringarm is a powerhouse, and it's his haunting performance that will stick with you the most. Also deserving of praise is the beautiful Yayaying Rhatha Phongam, who keeps pace with Gosling and shares several memorable scenes with him.
Only God Forgives is another superb feather in Refn's cinematic cap; an avant-garde experiment in strange beauty and harrowing horror concerned with existential questions and the mysticism of Asia. At a scant 90 minutes, it manages to get in and out without feeling agonisingly protracted or overlong. You'll either love Only God Forgives or despise it; there's not much of a middle ground. Some viewers will go along for the ride, while others will ridicule the movie as pointless and uneventful. Do not even consider watching it unless you're prepared to keep your mind open and allow Refn's surreal cinematic spell to wash over the screen.
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