Only God Forgives Review: Refn took a big risk

From the director that brought us the brilliant film Drive back in 2011 starring Ryan Gosling, he now has released his next eagerly awaited film Only God Forgives. But with his last great film, expectations would always be high for whatever came next. But the question is, has it delivered?

Only God Forgives poster

Only God Forgives poster

Only God Forgives isn’t your everyday normal film. It’s actually quite the opposite if honest. The plot of the film centres around Julian and Chang. Julian is an American who moved has moved to Bangkok with his brother Billy. Their main source of income is by dealing drugs. The film opens with Julian’s brother walking around Bangkok at night, which he ends up raping and killing a sixteen year old girl. This is where our other main character enters, Chang.

Chang is an police man who isn’t as young as he use to be. He arrives at the scene of the crime where Billy is being held. Chang tells the daughters father to do what he wants to Billy, in which he ends up murdering him. Chang then takes the father to an isolated place with two of his other officers and punishes the father by taking out a sword and chopping half of his arm off. Telling him that this is what he gets for making his daughters prostitutes.

A bit later on Julian’s mother arrives in Bangkok because her first born son Billy has passed away.  She sets the task of getting Julian to kill the man that killed his brother. This begins a chase of revenge through the city of Bangkok.

The cast in Only God Forgives is a fantastic cast, it stars Ryan Gosling as Julian, Vithaya Pansringarm as Chang, and Kristian Scott Thomas as Crystal. Everyone performs brilliantly, and the most stunning performance comes from Vithaya Pansringarm as Chang. Who plays the role flawlessly.

Vithaya Pansringarm as Chang!

Vithaya Pansringarm as Chang

Something that many critics have noted about Only God Forgives is its lack of script throughout the entire movie. There is such a lack of talking in the movie that it feels weird when people onscreen are having a full blown conversation. But what Refn was trying to do was to tell you, a story visually. He doesn’t want the characters to tell you, he wants to show you through weird dreams that Julian has and what is happening onscreen. And I think this was a risk to take. The whole way he went about in the movie was a risk. He could of played it safe and done something like Drive again, but he took a different direction. He wants to tell you the story of Julian and Chang through cinematic shots, instead of just a script like normal movies would. And I believe he pulls this off, very well actually. It is for sure differently, but Refn manages to pull it off.

When I think back over the movie and what my thoughts of it are, I haven’t got much problems with it being honest. One of my main issues with the film is a torture scene involving Chang. The scene got its point across within the first few minutes of it, but Refn seemed to drag it way out just for ‘shock value’ I believe. Though the scene is very well done, it is dragged out and could be cut down significantly.

A still of Julian

A still of Julian

But the best part of Only God Forgives isn’t the acting, or the plot, it’s the beautiful cinematography. Some of the shots in this movie are literally outstanding. With the blend of the night sky and all the different neon colours and signs around Bangkok, it really adds a whole lot more to the film. The music in the film is great as well, especially during an important moment with Julian and Chang.

Only God Forgives has been getting a lot of bad rap since it was first shown, it was boosed at Cannes and is now seeing a very low score of 36% on Rotten Tomatoes. My main thought about the film is, it is certainly not for everyone. If you enjoyed or even loved Drive, which was Refn’s previous film with Gosling, it doesn’t mean you will like this. It is a totally different film and has a totally different style.

All in all, Only God Forgives managed to tell a very interesting story with absolutely stunning cinematography, great music and brilliant performances by all the cast. It also managed to wrap up the end with not leaving a cliffhanger or anything and finished it with a real nice touch. So far it is one of my favorite moves from 2013 and that’s why I give it, a:

Overall rating: 9/10


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