Sunday, July 21, 2013

Review: Only God Forgives (2013)

Gosling is another enigmatic lead in Refn's latest.

Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
Produced by Lene Børglum, Sidonie Dumas and Vincent Maraval
Written by Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Gordon Brown, Tom Burke, Vithaya Pansringarm, Byron Gibson and Sahajak Boonthanakit


Drive was one of the best films I saw in 2011. It had a fascinating style, an entrancing soundtrack, and an impressive cast. Nicolas Winding Refn became a director to watch, but his latest film doesn't quite match the success of his last one. Set in the criminal underworld in Bangkok, this film follows Julian (Gosling), a successful drug smuggler, in his quest for revenge. When his brother (Burke) is killed, and his mother (Scott Thomas) shows up afterwards, he tracks down the killer (Pansringarm). Meanwhile, the killer has his own problems to deal with.

Refn sets everything up well, delivering another brutal, gorgeous fever dream. The style is flawless, and the scenes are perfectly executed. However, there isn't much going on them, which complicates the pacing. Although the story feels cohesive, there is something amiss. This could have been a great film, but it comes off as a flat, pointless movie with an abundance of stylish flare. Everything has been carefully assembled, yet the style renders this particular narrative almost empty. Still, it somehow works. The performances are fine, the cinematography is outstanding, the score is an atmospheric delight, and the action is well-staged. Additional viewings are a must, as I could see this becoming one of my favorite films by the end of the year. It has everything it should, yet it feels incomplete in its enigmatic succinctness. At the moment, it remains a very good film, even if it didn't win me over completely.

Oscar Potential: None (Best Cinematography and Best Original Score would be amazing nominations, but that won't happen.)


  1. Well, I couldn't be more disinterested in this movie if I tried, Josh. Seems like a style-over-substance type of movies. Now once in a while I don't mind that, but I prefer if the 'style' is far less bloody and gory.

  2. This is one of my most anticipated of the year, thanks in large part to Drive. It's funny, when I first saw Drive I wasn't entirely won over. I liked it, but it wasn't one of my favorites. Then I saw it again, and by the end of 2011 it was in my top five! Maybe that will happen with this one as well.

    It looks beautiful. How was Scott-Thomas? I hear she is the standout here.

    1. It's good, but something feels off. Hopefully, it will grow on me like Drive did for you. :)

      Scott Thomas killed it, but she didn't have much to do. She's currently in my Best Supporting Actress lineup.

  3. When you rewatch this, I'll be interested to see whether it increases in depth, with a second viewing, or if it's just a slick style-over-substance film.

    1. Yeah, it fluctuates a lot at the moment. I'm still not sure about it.