I Saw A Film Today… Only God Forgives

onlygodforgives1Nicholas Winding-Refn is one of my favorite modern directors. And this isn’t only because of 2011’s Drive, which I was very infatuated with. In fact, infatuated may not be the strongest word. But I’ve also fell in love with his other works, from Valhalla Rising to Bronson. In fact the only films of his I haven’t seen are some of his most popular, Pusher series. His sense of cinematography is intoxicating and his storytelling is assaulting. He isn’t exactly for the casual movie goer, or the squeamish for that matter. Which is why I wasn’t surprised after Cannes when the cinematic community was so split on their opinions of this gritty tale from Thailand.

Julian (Ryan Gosling) runs a boxing club and drug ring in Bangkok, Thailand along with his brother Billy (Tom Burke). But Billy has a taste for violence and young girls and ends up killing a sixteen-year-old after raping her. Billy sees firsthand justice though when vigilante cop Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm) allows the girl’s daughter to bludgeoned him to death.

When Julian’s cold mother Crystal (Kristen Scott Thomas) hears of this, she wants swift revenge against all involved, tasking conflicted Julian with oversight.

This film is a film that you come out of with only two types of conclusions. Number one is you come out thinking this a work of art, a masterpiece. Number two is you come out with a bad taste in your mouth and think you just saw a complete piece of trash. There really is no in between. I personally came out leaning more towards number one.

Only God Forgives may be sparse on dialogue, and story for that matter, but this is a film that doesn’t really set out to be either of those. It is a film that only intends to assault your senses, in the best and worse way possible. If anything, this is Refn’s ridged middle finger to those who have only seen Drive. This is much in the same vein as his earlier films; scenes of reality mixed with dizzying sequences of surrealism.

It certainly is one of his most violent films, surpassing Drive with ease; possibly Valhalla Rising as well. But it is not just violence for the sake of violence, as some supposedly more esteemed than me believe. Refn states that violence has its consequences, and all must pay justly for those acts. It is almost a sexual act, which goes hand in hand here. At least that is what I came away with on this viewing.

Refn and Gosling are a magical duo. Much like Clint Eastwood and Don Siegel. Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder. Johnny Depp and Tim Burton. Well, maybe not quite. But the two understand each other so well. Gosling seems to be at his best in his films, the two he has been in that is. And they don’t seem to be stopping any time soon, with rumors of a Logan’s Run remake for the two in the future.

There are no heroes in this gritty tale. No one is on the right, even Pansringham’s ‘angel of vengeance’ or Gosling’s Julian. But performances are, simply, brilliant. None more so than Kristen Scott Thomas’ Crystal. She will easily go do in cinema history as one of the most vindictive and worst mother figures. The dominance, manipulation, and obvious sexual hold she holds over her son is disgusting and mesmerizing to watch. At times you feel sympathy for Julian, with how strong the hold she has poisons him.

This is a movie about consequences. How each action has a repercussions. And it is a movie as previously stated that will divide you on whether or not it is a work of art.

Verdict: See it.

* Rated R for strong bloody violence including grisly images, graphic sexual content, and language. 89 minutes. Directed by Nicolas Winding-Refn (Drive, Bronson).

** Poster by Midnight Marauder.


One Response to “I Saw A Film Today… Only God Forgives”

  1. I loved this film , it’s officially one of my favorites

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