Only God Forgives (2013) Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. With Ryan Gosling, Kristen Scott Thomas and Vithaya Pansringarm.
They said I’d either love it or hate it. Well, I loved Nicolas Winding Refn’s ‘Drive’ so much, that I actually got as far as looking up Ryan Gosling’s ‘scorpion jacket’ on eBay, shortly after viewing it, while listening to the soundtrack on Spotify. ‘They’ said the same of Only God Forgives, again, a revenge film set in Bangkok, directed by Winding Refn with Gosling playing a tough guy bouncer. What could there possibly be not to love!? Well, this one has me a little more divided.
First off, the film looks absolutely stunning. The camera work and shot compositions are a treat. The colour, richness and clarity of the images hold a hypnotic quality that combines with the neon lit, ultra stylised look, to ensure that if nothing else, the film plays as a breathtaking slideshow of captivating imagery.
The plot and overall story are perhaps not the films best attributes. The whole thing is a very basic revenge tale, told in an art house cinema kind of style with sparse dialogue, explosions of graphic violence, and scenes that unravel in slow motion with creeping camera push-in’s and a discordant sense that the goings on are someone’s bad dream/nightmare.
You might not think it possible, but Ryan Gosling seems to have even less dialogue here than in Drive, leaving most of the limited chat to his mother Crystal (Kristen Scott Thomas), the films most intriguing presence.
It’s not hard to to see why Only God Forgives wasn’t welcomed happily across the cinematic threshold, like Drive so emphatically was. It looks great, but the slow pace, as entrancing as it sometimes is, could easily frustrate or annoy. That coupled with the sadistic nature of much of the violence, and a sense of overall weirdness will mean it’s trek to cult classic status might take a few more years. 3/5