Review - Only God Forgives

One of the great things about films is the divided opinions that they can create. Only God Forgives is certainly a film that will divide opinions. I was always interested in seeing this film after hearing it got both a standing ovation and boos from critics when premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.

I can understand why people either love it or hate it. For me, there were things to like but there was more to dislike. Whatever they were trying to do here, I just didn't get it.

After the success of Drive, Ryan Gosling once again collaborates with director Nicolas Winding Refn to deliver a brutal tale of revenge set amongst the criminal underworld of Bangkok. The trouble is that the tale being told moves at such a slow pace that many will find it hard to keep their mind on what is going on.

Gosling stars as Julian, an American running a boxing club in Bangkok to cover up a drug smuggling operation with his brother Billy (Tom Burke). When Billy is murdered for raping and killing a young prostitute, Julian's mother Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas) arrives in Bangkok to demand that Julian seeks revenge for the murder of his brother. To do this, Julian must go up against Lieutenant Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm), a crime boss who has been nicknamed the 'Angel of Vengeance'. 

If you do not like violence or bad language, this film is not for you.

That is where I think the film has found so many enemies. Some have called the violence unnecessary but I don't think it is. There was one point where I thought it was maybe a little excessive but it was necessary nonetheless. 

That wasn't my problem with Only God Forgives. My problem was the pace that the film moved at and the performance of Gosling.

I can understand having slow parts to a film but when the whole film is this slow, interest seems to drift off in places. There were several scenes where we would watch a character walk from point A to point B as slow as possible, with no dialogue at all. These scenes get irritating quite quickly.

I do like Ryan Gosling as an actor but here I could not take to him at all. He barely speaks and seems to have the same facial expression the whole way through. In Drive I was impressed with the all-round performance from Gosling but in that it actually felt like he was putting in the effort. I'm sorry to say this but after his performance here, I think anyone would accept his challenge to a fight.

While it wasn't perfect, I did like the sharp-tongued performance of Kristin Scott Thomas more. I have never seen her in a role like this before and it was good to see someone actually say more than a few words in a sentence.

The cinematography is the only aspect of this film that can hold its head up high. The film looks great. Every shot is executed with style and the perfect lighting matches the feel of the film. Larry Smith deserves a lot of credit for his cinematography. 

The electronic soundtrack from Cliff Martinez does a good job in conveying the mood of the characters but in places just makes things move even slower. Some of it would be better suited to a horror film.

Nicolas Winding Refn, with Drive, delivered a crime drama that kept me on the edge of my seat. It was gripping and had a character who you cared about. With Only God Forgives he has delivered a film with a main character that I didn't care about and that nearly made me fall out of my seat in boredom. 

It is almost as if Refn, after Drive, just feels as if he can put anything in the cinema and people will love it. For some that will be the case but for me I'm afraid this film just did not work for me.



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