Only God Forgives
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Writer: Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vithaya Pansringram
Plot: Julian, a drug smuggler living in Bangkok is coerced by his mother to seek revenge on the people who killed his brother.
Rate It: (0 -3 guys)
So what did you think?
Adam – Atmospheric and haunting, I would say this film reminded me a bit of a David Lynch film but I don’t want to insult Lynch. I know some critics are harping that the film is too violent and that it is misogynistic. Those are both lazy descriptors, this film is neither. The problem with this film is that it is tedious and dull.
Scotty - Only God Forgives is certainly a change of pace from your usual summer releases but is a total art-house film. Very little dialogue, excessive use of the color red, heavy sexual undertones, especially between mother and sons, and some visually stunning and powerful scenes, with that being said I am having a hard time putting this one together and how I feel about it. There were so many elements of the film that had me scratching my head wondering if I was missing the big picture.
Griff – If you were a huge fan of Drive then prepare for disappointment. If you are a fan of self-indulgent non-linear directing in the vein of Lars Von Trier and Terrence Malick then you might be in for a treat. Refn gives a shout out to Jodoroswsky at the end of the film and you can definitely tell he was trying to emulate the non-sensical imagery and over done religious themes. If you have seen Valhalla Rising (A much better film then this one.) then you will have a pretty good idea of what you are getting into.
Any thoughts before you saw the movie?
Adam – A Refn film? Well thats all you had to say to get me interested in checking this movie out. One of my favorite directors working again with Ryan Gosling, my hopes were sky high that this would be one of the best films of the year.
Scotty – I was eager to see this film as I was a fan of the director and the lead actor, also happy that I could rent it on amazon and watch it from the comfort of my own home.
Griff – I was giddy as a school girl waiting for this one to come out. I had this pegged as my movie of the summer at the very least.
Did you think this movie was fresh and/or innovative?
Adam – I think I saw this film once before while I was hiding out in a bathtub high on mushrooms. Stylistically the film is a pleasure to look at, however at its core its pretty hollow. The characters are no where nearly as fascinating as the setting and cinematography in the film.
Scotty - I cannot really say where I have seen this film before but there were so many elements reminiscent of other films that it felt like other films, therefore not innovative.
Griff – Visually immersive but stunningly boring. This movie leads to a conclusion that packs all of the punch of a wet noodle.
Did you think the script was well written?
Adam – It almost seems like Refn set out to make you ambivalent about every character in the film. If that was case he succeeded magnificently. However, this success does not make for very compelling cinema.
Scotty – I thought it had a lot of potential but fell short in the end, when a film leans on subtext and imagery it is necessary to have a powerful storyline. There is a lot of foreshadowing and symbolism but what it means in the end is debatable.
Griff - It was really difficult to care about any of the characters in this film or any of the goings on. The dialogue is so sparse it makes Sergio Leone seem like a jabber jaw.
Was there a performance you really liked or really hated?
Adam – Wow this is a hard one, I had a difficult time becoming emotionally invested in any of the characters in the film. I am gonna go with Yayaying Rhatha Phongam as I enjoyed watching her go pearl diving.
Scotty – I thought Kristen Scott Thomas was the shining star here, every one of her scenes was captivating on the opposite end of the spectrum was Gosling, who had a lost look on his face throughout the whole movie which I think was more about being overworked than in character.
Griff - Kristin Scott Thomas was the stand out for me. Mostly because she plays a character so far out of her usual roles. The rest of the cast seemed like they were sleep walking through this one. Or maybe I was sleeping. It was hard to tell at points.
Do you remember a song from the film?
Adam – The Angel of Death hits up the karaoke bars a few times in the film. Sadly he does not sing either of the most popular songs at karaoke bars in Bangkok. This would have been a more jocular film if he sang “My Way” and “Hotel California” after chopping off someones arm.
Scotty - The score was done well and I liked the use of Karaoke although puzzling it was effective.
Griff - Excellent score by Cliff Martinez.
What was your favorite line?
Adam – “Wanna Fight” Julian Is this the most anti-climatic line ever?
Scotty – “Time to meet the devil” is the most appropriate line I could write, there were many inappropriate lines of dialogue that had more oomph but that one sums up the film.
Griff – “Wanna Fight?” (Little do you know this leads to the lamest fight sequence of all time.)
What would have made this a better movie?
Adam - Compelling characters that caused viewer to become emotionally invested in anything happening on the screen. I need more than aesthetics, symbolism and amazing cinematography in a film.
Scotty – I thought the last 25 minutes of the film really destroyed it, from the point where Julian(Ryan Gosling) says, “You wanna fight” the film seemed to just unwind in a very anti-climactic, predictable way.
Griff - Dialogue, character development, linear, interesting plot.
Is it worth seeing in the theater? Or could you have waited for the DVD/Stream?
Adam - I actually watched this via streaming on iTunes. It was released for streaming the same day as its theatrical release. While I am glad I watched it I can’t really recommend that you either rush out to the theater nor stream the film.
Scotty – Do not go out of your way to see this in the theater, there are instant view options and it is not one of those films need to be seen in the theater.
Griff – I can’t believe I am saying this because I love Refn but this movie isn’t very good. You can skip it.
What other movies would you recommend if someone enjoyed this film?
Adam – Let’s go with a great David Lynch film Mulholland Drive. I’m gonna toss in a great revenge film from 1967 Point Blank starring Lee Marvin.
Scotty – Blue Velvet comes to mind and if you have not seen Drive, that was a better film with the same director and leading actor.
Griff - If you want to see a great movie with very little dialogue and gangster revenge plot then you should go check out Le Samourai (1967).
Any final thoughts on this movie?
Adam – If I’m an amateur psychologist I’m saying Refn made this film in response to all the praise that was heaped upon him after the success of Drive. However, since I am not, lets say that Refn missed a great opportunity to push the boundaries of cinema and introduce his directorial style to the masses. I still consider Refn to be a great auteur and look forward to checking out his next project despite being disappointed with this effort.
Scotty – I honestly was hoping to be blown away by this film but it seems Refn was his own worst enemy. Over directing and underwriting just led this film to be very mediocre, which is sad because it had a lot of potential.
Griff - Of the three of us, I am probably the biggest fan of foreign, independent, and off the wall films but I just couldn’t get into this little slice of drudgery. It’s ok to have very little dialogue. It’s fine to occasionally make a self-indulgent movie trying to work through your mommy issues but it’s never ok to make a boring ass movie. Fortunately I am also able to forgive and I look forward to Refn’s next movie.