Only God Forgives is the unfairly maligned follow up to Drive by the bromance team of Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling. It debuted at the Cannes film festival earlier this year and got extremely mixed reviews. The most surprising positive review was from the normally very middle class film critic for The Guardian Peter Bradshaw who gave it a glowing review. Some people are also calling it a flop but in reality it has made it’s money back a few times over due to the film’s small budget.
Refn said “a man who wants to fight god who fights somebody who thinks he is god” which best described the film’s plot. It’s a psychedelic noir infused western set in Bangkok. Ryan Gosling plays a guy called Julian who is a drug dealer in Bangkok and his brother kills an underage hooker. Her father kills Julian’s brother after a mysterious police officer summons him to do the deed and he kills the father afterwards. Julian’s mother comes to collect the body and seek vengeance for the death of her favourite son. It’s a considerably more daring film than Drive because it’s an original screenplay by Refn and was made for a third of the budget of Drive.
Only God Forgives takes the minimalism of Drive to new cosmic level of silence, Gosling for example only have 17 lines of dialogue in the film’s 90 minutes running time. The film changed drastically from the original script which had much more dialogue than is on screen and is much more literal than the film itself. The other characters barely speak with Kristen Scott Thomas as Julian’s (Gosling) mother from hell having the most lines by quite a distance. The characters are barely human because the world Refn is creating is devoid of humanity even the angel of vengeance’s family life is devoid of any emotion.
It’s a fascinating psychedelic western than is daringly experimental and gleefully surreal at the end. It’s a far cry from the pitch perfect fairy tale logic of Drive even though both films are demented fairy tales. Refn best described the differences in the film by comparing them to drugs “Drive is like the best cocaine, and doing it all night.” and “Only God Forgives is like the he old-school college acid; the kind where you become the chair.” It’s a savage daring piece of work that along with Drive makes Refn one of the most interesting filmmakers around and it’s really one of the year’s 3 best films hands down.
Drama, thriller, arthouse
Lionsgate Films UK
BD/DVD Release Date:
2nd December 2013 (UK)
Nicholas Winding Refn
Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vithaya Pansringarm, Yayaying Rhatha Phongam
Buy Only God Forgives: [DVD] / [Blu-ray]