Only God Forgives (2013)

Only God Forgives
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Writer: Nicolas Winding Refn
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vithaya Pansringarm, Gordon Brown, Yayaying Rhatha Phongam, Tom Burke

Julian (Ryan Gosling) manages a boxing club in Thailand, including some drug business with his brother Billy (Tom Burke). When his brother kills an underage prostitute, police man Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm) allows the girl’s father to kill Billy. Her son’s death brings Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas) to Bangkok, where she demands that Julian avenge Billy. But Julian is hesitant about this.

Only God Forgives is a heavy movie. It’s slow, gory and tells its story in dreamlike fragments. I understand that it isn’t for everybody, but I could lose myself in it.


Only God Forgives was obviously and undeniably a Refn movie. Though it reminded me less of Drive than of Valhalla Rising. [It does share its monosyllabic protagonist with both.] With its stark colors (at times its almost monochromatic, especially in red), the symbolic, vision-like sequences and slow pace, it is a fantastic cinematic experience, even if not a very accessible one.

That it is extremely violent, as usual, probably doesn’t help to make it go down any easier. The rest of the people in the cinema with me certainly didn’t know what to make of it – there was a lot of gasping and flinching. [I didn’t think it was that gory, but I’m probably not an ideal benchmark.]


The cast was really great, too. For Ryan Gosling it wasn’t really a great deviation from his role in Drive, but he does it so extremely well that I’d be okay with him repeating himself a couple of times more. I did think that Kristin Scott Thomas eclipsed him a little bit though. Her role is certainly more flashy and she plays it with so much evil gusto, it was breathtaking.

To say that I enjoyed the film is the wrong vocabulary, given the subject matter. But it is a film that I’ll certainly return to.


Summarizing: It’s a divisive film but I do think it’s worth watching, even if you end up in the half that doesn’t like the movie.

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