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Movie Review: Only God Forgives (2013)

Only God Forgives poster

Movie Review: Only God Forgives (2013)

Delivers less than Drive, although driven by a similar engine

Ryan Gosling and Director Nicolas Winding Refn team up to tell another tense and intense tale.

Drive (2011) was a sleeper of a movie that pulled you in and kept your stomach tight for the entire runtime. It was a slick balance of grit and grim – filled with explosive moments of visceral violence. When I heard Gosling and Refn had reunited for another film, there was zero hesitation in seeing it.

Potting Plots

A drug dealing family sets up camp in Thailand under the guise of a kick boxing circuit. When one brother is killed, it sets bloody wheels in motion. It’s revenge upon revenge upon revenge. Who will be the last one standing when the twisted love of an avenging mother is pitted against the relentless will of a rogue police chief?

Ryan Gosling plays the younger brother, Julian [with a purposely soft name] tasked with finding out the whys and who of his brother’s killer. It’s another role that sees Gosling suppressed and repressed. In Drive, he was the quiet scorpion; tail coiled and ready to strike. Here, he is the lesser brother, restrained and straining to find his own place and sense of justice. It’s a familiar building of tension that eventually explodes into violence and delivers as expected.

Extra Extras

 

A special nod for the performance of Kristen Scott Thomas as the mad-matriarch of the family who is hell bent of seeing her son’s killer’s pay. Vithaya Pansringarm plays the mirror of Julian as the final judge and jury as the dominant authority figure, the relentless Chang. He maintains that same demeanor of controlled rage and the inevitable clash is worth the price of admission. Yayaying Rhatha Phongam does her part in bringing sexual tension and keeping us tamed and restrained in more ways than one. All in all, we have great casting and colorful supporting characters.

Only God Forgives Poster

Only God Forgives, but Man will Judge

Ratcheted Righteousness

This movie lives in its atmosphere. There’s a touch of Brian De Palma, Stanley Kubrick and even a spell of David Lynch. Where Drive was quite literal and linear, Only God Forgives is a bit more surreal and some moments and events are played out from the subconscious and/or a foreshadowed premonition. You’ll need a bit of patience for the numerous scenes that splice together so …perfectly that you won’t realize you’ve changed locations and times. If you trust that everything will make sense eventually, you can relax in the brief moments of confusion. And I think this is what separates Refn from some of the films that inspire his work. It feels like he is adopting a visual story-telling style that causes the viewer to [literally] grope in the dark without sacrificing overall understanding for mood. When you are done watching Only God Forgives, you’ll be left discussing some of the metaphors, meanings and moments and thankfully, you won’t be left scratching your head. Although this movie lands a notch or two below Drive, it is certainly worth seeing and owning. Well recommended. I’m not a movie critic; I’m just critiquing a movie.

Tags:

Only God Forgives,Ryan Gosling,Nicolas Winding Refn,Drive,Movie review

Read my review of Drive and another Gosling movie, The Place Beyond the Pines

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