Only God Forgives (18)

Film

Thrillers

Only God Forgives

Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>1</span>/5

User ratings:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>3</span>/5
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Time Out says

Tue Jul 30 2013

A dread-filled electronic score, neon, zombie-like performances and violent scenes of amputation – all fail to distract from the emptiness and sheer silliness of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Bangkok-set, bloody and hilariously pompous revenge yarn ‘Only God Forgives’. It marks the second collaboration (after 2011’s ‘Drive’), between the Danish director and Ryan Gosling. He plays Julian, an American drug dealer in the Thai capital who is drawn into a cycle of blood-letting when his brother kills a prostitute. It’s refreshing to see Kristin Scott Thomas completely out of character as Julian’s hard-nut mother, who arrives from the US with waist-length peroxide hair and a soul made of steel. But it’s a shame no one asked her to pack convincing dialogue and to leave the hackneyed mummy issues at home.

It’s a film that takes place mostly at night, allowing Winding Refn to indulge a wearying fetish for neon. Even the grimmest locations are given a stylish boost by a glow of red or a flash of blue. Coupled with Cliff Martinez’s buzzing, lowly pulsating music, it’s distracting and nulling. Yet the lighting, production design and score are by far the film’s most artful elements. Strip them away, and you’re left with the bare bones of a straight-to-DVD B-movie plot. The story is simple, and essentially involves a series of killings punctuated by cliched images of characters singing in bars or little children providing a contrasting portrait of innocence. First, the police allow the father of the murdered prostitute to butcher her killer, Julian’s brother. When Julian seeks revenge he finds himself pursued by a mysterious, quietly psychopathic older detective, Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm). Each death is more and more gruesome, and there’s an especially nasty scene in which a British bar owner is attacked by what look like steel chopsticks.

Very little happens beyond these explosions of violence, which leaves us to wade through a great deal of slo-mo and characters forever staring into the middle distance. We learn barely anything about them, and it’s Gosling who comes out the worst. He floats moodily through the film. When Scott Thomas describes him ‘as a very dangerous boy’, all we see is a buff male model readied for a risky fashion shoot. In one of the film’s few conversations, Scott Thomas’s lines and delivery sound computer-generated. Style over substance doesn’t really tell the half of it: you can bathe a corpse in groovy light and dress it in an expensive suit, but in the end that rotting smell just won’t go away.

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Release details

Rated:

18

UK release:

Fri Aug 2, 2013

Duration:

90 mins

Users say

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

3.8 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:7
  • 4 star:1
  • 3 star:1
  • 2 star:3
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|26
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Stuart

Genius. Impossibly Dense. Gorgeous ending. If you cannot find the merit in this movie, I suggest you rethink your idea of tasteful cinema and go back to watching the Avengers. Very ignorant review

john stevens

Completely agree. worst film we have EVER seen. i was going to sell the dvd on ebay, but i feel too sorry for whoever buys, so its going straight in the bin.

Eagle

I saw it on Monday, and it is still on my mind come Friday - so it must have something. I am unsure whether to give it 1 star or 5 stars, so I assume that it's best to settle for 3.

Max Anderston

This movie is silly. Plain and simple, it is just pointless. It would get 1 star based on the story but it gets an additional one for the way that it looks. I am a fan of Refn, Gosling and Kristin Scott Thomas but I left disappointed and feeling short changed. Disregard the reviews across the internet about the way it is shot and the colouring, there is good reason for Refn's use of colour and neon light and this is down to his eye sight. All his movies have this grading due to his eye sight. It has in turn become his style, and this movie has bags of it. Some of the shots are gorgeous, lit expertly with an eye for patterns and intricate design that is synonymous with Thai culture. But that's where the interest ends. With regards to the film itself, it is just pretty pointless. All of the characters are half baked. Gosling looks great like all his movies but he is completely underdeveloped. The story itself is underdeveloped. How he winds up in the situation he is in is underdeveloped. Opening with a fight scene, followed by the interaction between the brothers, then the incident that puts Gosling in the shit is crammed into what felt like about 7 minutes. We are given no background to the brother or why he is so psychotic. Kristin Scott Thomas arrives giving the movie its main highlight, her conversation with a hotel receptionist. It is a scene oozing with spitefulness, aggression and venom, it's quite funny too. But she is also half baked. The person who receives the most screen time is the cop hunting them - you see his daughter, his approach to his work and numerous interactions. This in truth is not who I wanted to see. Aside from the fact he is not that scary to look at and is quite disarming, he's just not interesting and too wooden to feel empathy for. In between the entire story there are these weird musical numbers being watched by one of the main characters. Whether these are comical or mean to confuse, they just add to the pointless nature of the film. The line from the movie that best sums up the vibe is when Kristin Scott Thomas asks Gosling for his help after promising not to ask for it when he 'dealt with his father'. This sums up the half baked, unexplained, mysterious feel that you just do not care enough about because there is such little information. Oh and it ain't that gory, whatever people write about it being 'violence porn' is bollocks, there are a couple of squeamish moments, however nothing worse than an under average violent Tarantino scene.

Koen

Not only the title of this racist movie is bad, the movie itself is worse. It is a trend that caucasians, especially with London, American or German accents are pictured as perverts, killers, monsters, and racists in movies. The other racist, the Bangkok police chief, is a mixture of judge dredd, psyco Frank (Blue Velvet) Bruce Lee, and Hitler. This character breaks the law in the most violent of ways, but his ethnic/racial pride justifies this, the typical hall mark of a racist. Lets imagine for a second an alternative movie "only God forgives" were the characters switched race: the story is told in Copenhagen, the criminal gang are Asians and "judge dredd" is a Copenhagen caucasian copper. Would you like that movie? Anti-white racism is rampant at the moment, and for all the wrong reasons. This is the last movie I watched by Refn. Btw if Refn really thinks torture scenes are artistic, lets hope no Refn style artist comes Refn way to start being artistic on him. Wild kid Refn is a psycho, now you know it, "enjoy".

Hugh

Only God Forgives is a film as ready to divide viewer from opinion as it is limb from body. With a lead performance that is muted to a fault, a lighting scheme set permanently on sleaze and jarring scene shifts between depraved violence and, well Thai karaoke, you can certainly say it is a work of singular vision. For that alone we can be grateful as it hopefully means there are no other film makers out there that would invite you to sit through such a creatively misjudged mess. It is almost as if director Nicholas Winding Refn has taken all the good regard generated from his last film, Drive, and experimented to see just how far he could use it to push the audience before they stopped to question the actual worth of the work at hand. It would seem the intention was to combine a handsome leading man with overly liberal lashings of blood and neon alongside an unexpected supporting turn from Kristen Scott Thomas, who had clearly been asked to fill the entire emoting quota for the rest of the combined cast, all in the name of distracting the audience from the question of what it is all about. The answer would seem to be, very little. Whilst some may describe it as 'experience cinema', I felt the more accurate term would be 'ordeal cinema', which for a film as hollow as this, left me with the distinct feeling of having been had.

ROBERT EVANS

Jacobean tragedy transposed to modern day Bangkok. Sheer bloody genius, invites parrallels with Blue Velvet, namely with the Sociopath Detective/Frank, the all pervading sense of doom, plus the karaoke. I cannot remember the last time a film gave me palpatations and sweaty palms as the protaganists move inexorably towards the dreamlike conclusion. Who wants clunky exposition marring this sensual, magnificant film. Plaudits all round. Cannot wait to see what direction Mr NWR will take.

ROBERT EVANS

Jacobean tragedy transposed to modern day Bangkok. Sheer bloody genius, invites parrallels with Blue Velvet, namely with the Sociopath Detective/Frank, the all pervading sense of doom, plus the karaoke. I cannot remember the last time a film gave me palpatations and sweaty palms as the protaganists move inexorably towards the dreamlike conclusion. Who wants clunky exposition marring this sensual, magnificant film. Plaudits all round. Cannot wait to see what direction Mr NWR will take.

Ross G

fantastic movie.. For those who enjoy a unique film experience rather than simply being spoon-fed the plot or just wanting to leave the theater with that warm fuzzy feeling.

Ross G

fantastic movie.. For those who enjoy a unique film experience rather than simply being spoon-fed the plot or just wanting to leave the theater with that warm fuzzy feeling.

Nicola F

Worst film I ever watched. Actually began to lose the will to live. Couldnt wait to leave. Honestly dont understand how anyone could have liked it.

Sutton

This is a stylishly shot film, but it is excessively violent and dis-engaging. I enjoyed Drive and was unsure about seeing this film, particularly given the way it had polarised the broadsheet and TO critics. I believe the film has many fine performances, but as a film it is not enjoyable. I counted three 'walk outs' and I was tempted to follow them, but stuck it out, given the director and actors involved. Disappointing.

LBrown

I enjoyed it and will watch it again. I went expecting Gosling to be the film's anti-hero and was surprised to find him playing a weak, lost and emotionally stunted man, which I felt was at odds with the strong, silent persona that comes across in the trailer. and this disappointed me Although Gosling gave it his best shot, I think it's his performance (although he's probably only doing what the director has told him to do) which pushes the film into parody at times and not KST's mother character as suggested by others. I think peoples' expectations would have been different with a different actor(and, no, I don't know who - a young Edward Norton, perhaps?), and the film wouldn't have polarised opinion so much. Anyway, I loved the dreamlike atmosphere, the religious symbolism and, especially, the soundtrack and the way the director uses it in the manner of a silent film to highlight and explain the actions (or non-actions), facial expressions and emotions being played out on screen when there isn't any dialogue present. Although I think it's more of a 4 star, I've given it 5 because I think Dave Calhoun has been overly mean with his 1 star review. (By the way, Dave, if your ears are good enough to spot KST's voice being computer-generated, I'm surprised you didn't notice the skewered bar owner's Australian accent, i.e. not British at all.) Best tip I can give is to see it for yourself and make up your own mind rather than relying on critics or other viewers to think for you.

LBrown

I enjoyed it and will watch it again. I went expecting Gosling to be the film's anti-hero and was surprised to find him playing a weak, lost and emotionally stunted man, which I felt was at odds with the strong, silent persona that comes across in the trailer. and this disappointed me Although Gosling gave it his best shot, I think it's his performance (although he's probably only doing what the director has told him to do) which pushes the film into parody at times and not KST's mother character as suggested by others. I think peoples' expectations would have been different with a different actor(and, no, I don't know who - a young Edward Norton, perhaps?), and the film wouldn't have polarised opinion so much. Anyway, I loved the dreamlike atmosphere, the religious symbolism and, especially, the soundtrack and the way the director uses it in the manner of a silent film to highlight and explain the actions (or non-actions), facial expressions and emotions being played out on screen when there isn't any dialogue present. Although I think it's more of a 4 star, I've given it 5 because I think Dave Calhoun has been overly mean with his 1 star review. (By the way, Dave, if your ears are good enough to spot KST's voice being computer-generated, I'm surprised you didn't notice the skewered bar owner's Australian accent, i.e. not British at all.) Best tip I can give is to see it for yourself and make up your own mind rather than relying on critics or other viewers to think for you.

Nick

I loved it. A great, weird film that I think will be seen as a masterpiece in years to come. Interesting to note that this issue of TO which contains Dave Calhoun's one-star for Only God Forgives also features a rightly gushing, five-star thumbnail review of a Blu-Ray for Zulawski's Possession at the back of the magazine. Here's what TO said of Possession on its first release and reprinted for nearly three decades in its Film Guides: "Turkey of the Year, even though the main ingredient is pure ham." There's a reason why the little dialogue there is in Only God Forgives is so OTT...

jackie

Bad...very very bad....boring waste of money to rent online...we hoped and hoped that at some point it would become at least entertaining...nope....just stupid and then more stupid...really disappointed that Ryan Gosling would appear in something this dense...Style over substance doesn’t really tell the half of it: you can bathe a corpse in groovy light and dress it in an expensive suit, but in the end that rotting smell just won’t go away. Total wasted of evening. Not B grade...Z grade.

jah

That this perfectly executed fever dream has received such poor notices is a sad reflections on the critical acumen of most reviewers. Its the work of a true auter, devoted to the realisation of his vision, and as such asks a little more of its audience. In a way the success of Drive has been its undoing, creating expectations that thankfully NWR had no intention of meeting

jah

That this perfectly executed fever dream has received such poor notices is a sad reflections on the critical acumen of most reviewers. Its the work of a true auter, devoted to the realisation of his vision, and as such asks a little more of its audience. In a way the success of Drive has been its undoing, creating expectations that thankfully NWR had no intention of meeting

L.Aline

I don't think it was style over substance at all. Just think of all those films with pointless, crappy dialogue. This movie elimated it and focused on visuals, sound, and symbols. For me, it was a sensory, dreamlike experience. We all have dreams were nothing is truly defined but feel the sense of dread and anxiety. I also appreciated the nods to East Asian revenge movies. Have movie goers gotten so lazy that they need everything spelled out for them? Everything tied up in a neat little bow? I actually learned quite a bit about Julian's character in this film mainly just from the visuals. I felt his guilt, shame, & pain. The sins of the fathers. This movie forced me to use my eyes and ears--a rare experience!!

L.Aline

I don't think it was style over substance at all. Just think of all those films with pointless, crappy dialogue. This movie elimated it and focused on visuals, sound, and symbols. For me, it was a sensory, dreamlike experience. We all have dreams were nothing is truly defined but feel the sense of dread and anxiety. I also appreciated the nods to East Asian revenge movies. Have movie goers gotten so lazy that they need everything spelled out for them? Everything tied up in a neat little bow? I actually learned quite a bit about Julian's character in this film mainly just from the visuals. I felt his guilt, shame, & pain. The sins of the fathers. This movie forced me to use my eyes and ears--a rare experience!!

moviegeekblog

Well said Dave. I didn't mind the violence, but it's the absurd stillness of the film that I thought was rather dull, pointless, indulgent and with all those pregnant pauses where nothing really happened, ultimately it was just extremely boring... I saw this one yesterday and hated it as I had not hated a film in a long time. As you said, style over substance.

Clément

I hear what you say about the emptyness of the script but it doesn't do justice to the essence of the film. This movie is a sensorial experience, the score and photography knock you down. You make up for the lack of dialogue with your own feelings of what's going on. The atmosphere of the movie envelops you all way to the end. It's a dream or a nightmare... It's an attraction, a mirror labyrinth. The emptyness of the film invites you to go deep inside your soul and fit the pictures to your personnality.

Clément

I hear what you say about the emptyness of the script but it doesn't do justice to the essence of the film. This movie is a sensorial experience, the score and photography knock you down. You make up for the lack of dialogue with your own feelings of what's going on. The atmosphere of the movie envelops you all way to the end. It's a dream or a nightmare... It's an attraction, a mirror labyrinth. The emptyness of the film invites you to go deep inside your soul and fit the pictures to your personnality.