Director: Nicholas Winding Refn
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Scott Thomas, Vithaya Pansrigarm, Gordon Brown, Yayaying Rhatha Phongam, Tom Burke
Screenplay: Nicholas Winding Refn
I don’t remember the last time I saw a piece of cinema that I found to be this boring and this useless since last year. Even my fun screening of “Scary Movie 5” the other day was more interesting and entertaining then anything that I saw in this movie. “Only God Forgives” is the first 2013 movie that I saw that was trying way too hard to be artsy and meaningful, when it came out to be an atrocious, boring and disastrous movie that failed in every single note except for it’s phenomenal photography.
There was a plot, but the plot could have been told in 20 minutes. However, Refn (of “Drive” (2012) fame) extended what could have been a short film into the most boring 1 hour 30 minutes of my 2013 movie going experience. It told the story of a Thailand based drug smuggler named Julian (Ryan Gosling) who’s brother (Gordon Brown) is mysteriously murdered one night. When Julian’s overbearing and over-sexualized mother Crystal (Kirsten Scott Thomas) comes into the picture, she pressures her son to avenge the death of her now-deseased eldest. The plot is wrapped together in a useless 90 minute violent string of scenes, that unfortunately wasted film and their cinematographer’s amazing talents.
I never really believed that Ryan Gosling had the real talent to carry all the artsy movies he’s been getting himself into. He’s showed an impressive performances here and there (my favourite would be 2006’s “Half Nelson”) but lately Gosling has been falling so short. He’s better off doing romantic dramas like “The Notebook” (2004), at least their entertaining. Here, he tries his best to be subtle with faces that lead to nothing but the thought of constipation. The character Julian is already one-noted and is a snooze fest to watch, so Gosling had really nothing to work with. But any talented actor would at least get us a bit interested to wait till the end to see what happens to the lead character. Not here.
It might however, be Refn’s fault. Because even a talented actress such as Kirsten Scott Thomas just looked ridiculous as pranced around the screen in unfitting dialogue, as she recited her unintentionally funny dialogue. Most of her scenes, including her forced sexual tension with Gosling (which is supposedly her son in the film) was cringe worthy from start to end. Vithaya Pansrigarm and Gordon Brown were just plain out horrible in this movie.
One thing that “Only God Forgives” gets right is the wonderful photographer done by cinematographer Larry Smith. Smith paints the world of underground Thailand with such beauty that violence looks almost beautiful. His work with lights and his skill of moving the cameras around make the film too good look like. His talents weren’t worth the atrocious mess that this film was. The photography in the movie would work better as a collection of photographs in some form of photo essay featuring the gritty beauty of that part of the world.
Overall, I can’t say much but complete dismiss “Only God Forgives” into the back of my movie-going memory. Apart from the cinematography, the film has no other redeeming quality and I don’t think I will revisit this movie ever again. I wish I could have fast forwarded most of it’s irrelevant scenes (which is like three fourths of the entire motion picture) but there would be no movie because even the relevant scenes were hard to sit through. Don’t think I’ll ever be interested in seeing another Gosling/Refn film unless I’m paid to do it.