Review: “Only God Forgives” (2013, Nicholas Winding Refn) – by Ian Vicencio

only-god-forgive1sRATING: 2/10

Director: Nicholas Winding Refn
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Scott Thomas, Vithaya Pansrigarm, Gordon Brown, Yayaying Rhatha Phongam, Tom Burke
Screenplay: Nicholas Winding Refn

Wow, where to even start? First off, I would just like to say that I had very high expectations for “Only God Forgives”. Nicolas Winding Refn did an amazing job on Drive, I thought everything about it was perfect (especially the soundtrack) and it’s actually one of my favorites. On the contrary, “Only God Forgives” left me feeling underwhelmed.

“Only God Forgives” is about Julian (Gosling), a drug-smuggler living in Bangkok whose life spirals out of control when his mother flies in and forces him to take vengeance against the people accountable for his brother’s death. It was hard to not compare the similarities between “Drive” and “Only God Forgives”. It was on par in terms of the mood, lighting, and cinematography; brooding and mysterious. Also, it was absolutely not short on the brutal violence in graphic and bloody detail.

As the story progresses, you start to realize that not a whole lot goes on. The film contains very little dialogue and plot. The characters were bordering on becoming terminators and as an audience, you are unable to show sympathy for them. This is what completely irked me during the entire film. In “Drive”, the Driver was able to identify with Irene and her son Benicio. However, in “Only God Forgives” the characters walk and talk like savage, sword-wielding robots. Despite all that, I really enjoyed Kristin Scott Thomas’ portrayal of Crystal, Julian’s overbearing mother. She owns every scene she’s in. She is a breath of fresh air against Julian’s pseudo-intellectual stares and one-liners.

Right after watching the movie, you might find yourself listing it under “Greatest Disappointments of 2013”. I tried really hard to like it, but there was nothing new, nothing to watch out for, and I finally understood why it was “booed” in Cannes. In short, it was dull and I was actually thankful it only lasted for 90 minutes.

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