Only God Forgives Screen 31 articles

Only God Forgives

2013

Only God Forgives Poster
  • Very little happens beyond these explosions of violence, which leaves us to wade through a great deal of slo-mo and characters forever staring into the middle distance. We learn barely anything about them, and it’s Gosling who comes out the worst. He floats moodily through the film. When Scott Thomas describes him ‘as a very dangerous boy’, all we see is a buff male model readied for a risky fashion shoot.

  • [Refn has] reteamed with Ryan Gosling for a movie that amplifies the most off-putting aspects of his earlier work: the gratuitous sadism, the canned portentousness, the sub-Lynchian pools of red light, the nihilistic emptiness. Gosling doesn’t even really play a character in Only God Forgives—just an affectless lump...

  • Refn's pretension to transcend this trashiness is an exposing failure. The over-calculated visual ideas (embarrassingly, actors repeatedly walk to the center of the frame, in slow motion no less, and turn their head toward the camera), the dark sense of humour buried beneath the film's layers of self-seriousness, the lack of dynamism either within or between images, all add up to a film that is less than the sum of its already paltry parts.

  • ...Julian, this movie’s antihero, is but the latest in the sad litany of 40-yard-staring puppy dogs that have railroaded Gosling’s career. As a leading man his niche has extended as tall and wide as his own forehead, a plateau Refn exploits for 89 gruesomely dull minutes. If my focus on Gosling’s face seems uncouth, trust me: it’s Only God Forgives’ sole topic, which would be well-and-good if the same experiment hadn’t been attempted 21 months ago by both the star and director in Drive.

  • Nicolas Winding Refn has stated that he wanted "Only God Forgives" to be a Western set in Bangkok, which is as good a pronouncement as any of the film's precious pomposity. Oedipal motifs are thrown around like confetti: Gasp as Crystal laments Billy's sizable phallus! Shiver as she calls Juian's date a phrase that rhymes with "mum dumpster"! Cringe when a character literalizes the Freudian desire to go back into the womb!

  • Only God Forgives ideas are rather silly – per course with Refn’s work – but are rendered with enough conviction to register with some force and the film’s take in Bangkok as a purgatory is so overheated to reach past self-parody. The film ultimately just asks us to watch the bad lit passion of Gosling’s character, the star’s self-absorption running in grotesque synch with the filmmaker’s own.

  • Anyone seduced by the flatulent over-direction... can doubtless find something about “hell on earth” or “East-West relations” to ascribe all this punishment to, but there’s really no point. Refn isn’t lecturing us like Haneke or provoking us like Tarantino—he just really seems to enjoy torture and dismemberment and it pleases him to let us know this.

  • For a little while, I was grooving on the film's aesthetic elements—Larry Smith's ninth-circle-of-hell cinematography, Cliff Martinez's droning synth score, Beth Mickle's superbly chintzy production design (love those Kubrick-esque brothels). Then the Refn-y stuff takes over: Pregnant-pause glances between characters stretch scenes way past the point of tedium, while the hyper-stylized violence is all foreboding build-up, no cathartic release.

  • ...If Only God Forgives has anything going for it, it’s that it’s clearly the movie that its creator wanted to make. Of course, that’s also mostly what’s wrong with it: it turns out that Refn’s sensibility, when so fully distilled, is purely and potently toxic... It’s not that Only God Forgives is nasty—it’s that its nastiness doesn’t point to anything except the attitude of the man behind the camera.

  • A son slicing open his already bled-out mother and then fisting her entrails is just one of Nicolas Winding Refn’s more delicate touches in the Bangkok-set Only God Forgives, a turgid mix of ersatz Greek tragedy, Muay Thai, and shiny, seductive gore.

  • Directors are always digging around in their psyches for material — David Lynch, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Lars von Trier, Gaspar Noé. Refn's anxiety seems out to top theirs. But there's no joy or folly or transcendence. It's a one-dimensional video game of death, with Gosling as its star. To love him here — or Refn, for that matter — is to be a necrophiliac.

  • Refn keeps things moving languorously as if the film’s pace were timed to a metronome, and he shoots his sequences of increasingly graphic violence as pointed, perhaps even ironic indulgences in the stuff of low-brow schlock. The rest remains purposefully shallow: casting aside drama, characterization, and a well-developed plot, “Only God Forgives” coasts instead on the decadence of its surfaces...

  • In the film, Refn allows his formal and stylistic flourishes to run wild, pushing them to nearly parodic levels... This emotionally hollow film isn't merely an instance of style over substance, but style as an excuse for an utter lack of substance.

  • It resembles Gaspar Noé's eyeball searing faux-Asiania in Into the Void, which was certainly problematic in itself. But at least Noé understands the value of keeping the camera moving, plunging into impossible visual situations, so as to provide some semblance of psychological frisson... and avant-garde showmanship... But Only God Forgives breaks up the monotony with Kristen Scott Thomas's evil-mommy Cruella deVil, practically leading her son by the balls with a truly revolting Oedipal ooze.

  • The inadvertent result of all these moves put together — punctuated with gruesome inserts of bodily decapitations by a Thai master's sword, plus assorted dream/fantasy images — is a strange species of comedy, like a parody of Marguerite Duras' India Song (1975): no matter what spine-tingling, life-threatening menace awaits just off-frame, Winding Refn willalways cut to Ryan Gosling standing stock still like a zombie. That is, a zombie who is also a Country Priest.

  • This isn't a film about anything that's on the screen -- which is just as well, since apart from the surfeit of blades gliding serenely through human flesh, only faintly wrinkling the thousand-yard stares of the penetrated, there's barely anything to speak of going on in Refn's skinny, self-penned script. Rather, "Only God Forgives" is entirely about its own physical violations, and how deliberately it can design these extremities.

  • If anything, Only God Forgives proves that Refn is out to create something akin to a kind of red-light-district cinema. Compositions are excessively balanced and held for long amounts of time. These images are meant to be watched and desired, lusted after simply because they evoke a form of evocative skin-deep arousal. Refn ultimately fails in his efforts.

  • Refn certainly retains his eye for composition and his innate sense for creating a hypnotic environment. But without a second, let alone third, dimension to this story, there's little left to thematically consider and deconstruct. We know nothing of Julian, his brother, his mother, or his life within the Thai boxing community, and with less than probably 12 lines of dialogue, the character remains a cipher who's difficult to sympathize with...

  • At one point, Julian sticks his fist in a man’s mouth and drags the guy down a hallway for some unexplained reason, though probably because Mr. Refn thought it looked cool. To judge by the slicing and dicing and body count, it’s a fair guess that Mr. Refn spends a great deal of time thinking of putatively cool ways to kill off his characters. There’s something of a story in “Only God Forgives,” though mostly there are poses, gestures, washes of red light and rivers of blood.

  • That OGF offers no emotional involvement is a point of frustration, though it’s also inevitable... It’s clear that Winding Refn’s plan is to drug us into transcendence, into the eerie plains of Valhalla Rising (2009). He wants this film to levitate, but it doesn’t. Instead, it’s the subterranean hum and pervading sense of dread, and most of all, the director’s delirious conviction that Bangkok is a torture chamber running on karma, that keep the film’s motor running...

  • There’s little that’s pleasurable about “Only God Forgives,” director Nicolas Winding Refn’s second film with Ryan Gosling. That’s not a knock. It’s by design. Their sophomore pairing is in part about the denial of satisfaction, not to mention a sluggish, hypnotic wallow in the lives of people whose desires are, to say the least, questionable.

  • This time, the mood is damn near oppressive and as this gorgeous vision makes its way (leisurely) to a mano-a-mano between Gosling’s avenging tough guy and the blank-faced corrupt police chief (Vithaya Pansringarm) who had his dirtbag brother killed, you’ll find yourself stifling yawns as well as unintended giggles.

  • DP Larry Smith (who worked with Refn on 2008’s Bronson) convincingly makes it seem as if the hallways are saturated with viscous blood, but the perplexing back-and-forth between “dream” and fight sequences, coupled with an intrusive soundtrack heavy on synthetic strings, make the movie difficult to attend to. In a knowing nod to just how little what the characters say actually matters, several pivotal conversations are inaudible: lips move, but the soundtrack drowns out the voices.

  • ...These individual shots seem designed as events in themselves, but they don't acquire cumulative rhythm when strung together. A sympathetic viewer might say the movie visualizes the subjective evasions and memory gaps of a psyche fractured by incest and trauma, a plausible defense. But Refn's sudden jumps in location or omissions of random narrative connective tissue are consistent without being intriguing.

  • The real point is that people are dismissing this movie way too easily simply because they were hoping for something different. I’m pretty sure “Only God Forgives” merits another viewing and more careful consideration than it’s likely to get here. Speaking personally, I found myself irritated, seduced, hypnotized and mystified by turns.

  • The world cracked up into shards, each its own little world, and reconnected with looks across disparate spaces (and sometimes times), though none of em ever really see, which seems to me to be the point: this movement—along the arc of a revenge tale extended so that the end point isn’t the violent act, but the cessation of violence that follows it—out of the blindness and distance of an amoral world into the clarity and presence (and sacrifice) of justice.

  • The confidence with which Only God Forgives presents these unsavory ingredients is stunning, and many of the flaws here almost seem intentional, amping up the aggression via canvas-shredding self-sabotage.

  • The movie, in which Ryan Gosling plays an American drug smuggler living the low life in Bangkok, is many things—unhinged yet restrained, arty yet cheesy—but it's never boring. And if it's a disappointment after Refn's last movie, the viscerally elegant Drive, it at least bobs along on a grim, bloody current of silliness. You may not think you're up for seeing a rib cage split open like a rack of lamb, but when it's this well art-directed, what the hell?

  • Pansringarm is Thailand, arming itself against scuzzy Westerners, KST the ugly foreigner first seen abusing the help at her luxury hotel, Gosling the lost soul redeemed (if at all) by trying to embrace authenticity (the Thai boxing) even if he's no good at it, that trifecta blended with notions of parenting - machete-wielding cop punishing bad parents and sparing the good; KST the ultimate bad mother - and implied ironic undertones of the West as a parent chiding 'backward' countries...

  • Whether gliding ominously down long, lavishly decorated corridors or fixed between door frames looking into perfectly symmetrical rooms, Refn's voyeuristic lens gives the film a hypnotic, haunting feel. Refn has drawn similarities between Only God Forgives and Drive, but it shares a more tangible spiritual connection with the Danish writer/director's elliptical 2003 thriller Fear X, in which John Turturro experiences peculiar visions relating to his wife's seemingly random death.

  • I was utterly engrossed by the cultural dynamics central to the film. Put simply, all of the white characters are consumers, tourists, and their consumption is what causes much of the trouble for Bangkok’s luckless citizenry.

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