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Only God Forgives (2013)



Average Rating: 5.1/10
Reviews Counted: 150
Fresh: 60 | Rotten: 90

Director Refn remains as visually stylish as ever, but Only God Forgives fails to add enough narrative smarts or relatable characters to ground its beautifully filmed depravity.


Average Rating: 3.4/10
Critic Reviews: 36
Fresh: 5 | Rotten: 31

Director Refn remains as visually stylish as ever, but Only God Forgives fails to add enough narrative smarts or relatable characters to ground its beautifully filmed depravity.



liked it
Average Rating: 2.8/5
User Ratings: 24,787

My Rating

Movie Info

Julian (Ryan Gosling), a respected figure in the criminal underworld of Bangkok, runs a Thai boxing club and smuggling ring with his brother Billy. Billy is suddenly murdered and their crime lord matriarch, Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas) arrives from London to bring back the body. When Jenna forces Julian to settle the score with his brother's killers, Julian finds himself in the ultimate showdown. (c) Radius

Oct 22, 2013


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Latest News on Only God Forgives

September 24, 2013:
Digital Multiplex: After Earth, Only God Forgives, and More
This week in streaming video, we've got a summer flop helmed by M. Night Shyamalan, the new thriller...
July 17, 2013:
Nicolas Winding Refn and Cliff Martinez Talk Only God Forgives
Discussing Refn's latest stylish brawler.


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All Critics (150) | Top Critics (36) | Fresh (60) | Rotten (90) | DVD (3)

Directors are always digging around in their psyches for material - David Lynch, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Lars von Trier ... 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.

August 1, 2013 Full Review Source: Grantland
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Ryan Gosling and his "Drive" director, Nicolas Winding Refn, sail into the heart of darkness and emerge with a trinket of crackpot porno kitsch.

August 1, 2013 Full Review Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Style over substance doesn't really tell the half of it: you can bathe a corpse in groovy light and dress it in an expensive suit, but in the end that rotting smell just won't go away.

July 30, 2013 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This is one of the most shocking and one of the best movies of the year.

July 23, 2013 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Refn's nerve is admirable, even if his film often borders on unwatchable.

July 22, 2013 Full Review Source: San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The most objectionable thing about Only God Forgives isn't that it's shocking or immoral, but that it's so finally, fatally dull.

July 19, 2013 Full Review Source: Washington Post
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Even as their shadows fall across these walls, the characters are not supermen; they're humans reduced to chiaroscuro. Characterization is even more minimal.

April 8, 2014 Full Review Source: Newcity

It's a fragmented affair, relying on its visuals, sound design, and mythological villain to carry the day. It kept me riveted, though by the end I did feel the overall experience was a bit empty.

February 6, 2014 Full Review Source: Movie Mezzanine
Movie Mezzanine

Ryan Gosling reunites with Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn for the ultra-violent, ultra-slow-moving Bangkok-set revenge thriller Only God Forgives, whose unflinching gore and crawling pace will probably prove equally off-putting to most viewers.

February 1, 2014 Full Review Source: Movie Talk
Movie Talk

Not only a disaster area but will also have you questioning your affection for Refn's last film in the first place.

December 30, 2013 Full Review Source: Deadspin

God might forgive Refn and Gosling for this mess, but moviegoers might not be so kind.

December 11, 2013 Full Review Source:

The most fartistic movie of the year.

November 8, 2013 Full Review Source:

Gosling is little more than eye candy; he plays Julian as if he's always just about ready for a nap.

November 4, 2013 Full Review Source: Film Comment Magazine
Film Comment Magazine

Those who are less judgmental, or less enamored of the sentimentality of "Drive" -- and "Bronson" die-hards -- will know to lower their expectations and see what strange, stylized crime drama the Danish director is serving up this time.

October 31, 2013 Full Review Source: Yahoo! Movies
Yahoo! Movies

Since all the "characters" are archetypes, there's no way to really climb inside Only God Forgives and be emotionally affected by any of it.

October 28, 2013 Full Review Source:

It boasts tons of atmosphere and flashes of Refn's visual style -- as well as an admirably unhinged performance from Kristen Scott Thomas -- but little else to recommend.

September 20, 2013 Full Review Source: Times-Picayune

Refn has stated that the effect he was going for was an acid trip, and he's succeeded maybe a bit too well, as the initial surface trance wears off to reveal not much else going on.

August 29, 2013 Full Review Source:

A feverish blend of ultra-violence, corruption, bad mothering and karaoke... Simultaneously seedy and artsy, the film has a jagged stop-start pace that will mesmerise some, bore others and confound those left over.

August 20, 2013 Full Review Source: 3AW

I don't think it's bad. I think it's dull, and a product of an imagination that is very much pleased with itself.

August 17, 2013 Full Review Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Only God Forgives stays with you like a traumatic memory but the sickening violence appears composed as haunting flashes of sublime beauty; reverberating long after you've finished viewing.

August 16, 2013 Full Review Source: 2UE That Movie Show
2UE That Movie Show

An oddball, mostly unwatchable cinematic experiment...

August 10, 2013 Full Review Source: Reel Film Reviews
Reel Film Reviews

It's a film with a dark heart but a heart nonetheless.

August 5, 2013 Full Review Source: The Ooh Tray
The Ooh Tray

Baffling and hypnotic, Only God Forgives boasts an aesthetically assured composition but its flagrant dismissal of pacing and plot serve to undermine not beguile.

August 5, 2013 Full Review Source: Platform

It's a film destined to be either loved or despised. Both reactions seem equally valid.

August 5, 2013 Full Review Source: Scotsman

The story unfolds in a series of carefully composed tableaux accompanied by a mixture of western and oriental music, and what is enacted is a dreamlike fable of revenge and retribution.

August 4, 2013 Full Review Source: Observer [UK]
Observer [UK]

( ... ) pretentious at times. But if you fancy a Thai-flavoured cross between David Lynch and Chan-wook Park's Korean movie Oldboy, expect to be drinking the atmosphere.

August 2, 2013 Full Review Source: Birmingham Mail
Birmingham Mail

Audience Reviews for Only God Forgives

Only God Forgives seems to have suffered at the audiences lack of imagination rather than the Kubrickian style delusion of grandeur from director Nicolas Winding Refn that it has been accused of being. Its similarities to Kubrick's work are understandable but ever since 1996's Pusher, Refn has proved his worth and his vision is his own. Drive seems to have done the director less favours than it first seemed and could possibly be the film he is going to be forever compared against, even though I don't think it's his most creative film. Only God Forgives is a visually stunning film with heaps of subtle metaphors and intriguing social caricatures. The narrative is deconstructed perfectly, leaving the audience to decide who is who to them and who or what the film is about. It's all about interpretation. If Quentin Tarantino had made it everyone would be raving about how clever it was. I loved it.
June 2, 2014

Super Reviewer

After Drive became a surprise hit that came seemingly from out of nowhere, the masses became familiar with Nicolas Winding-Refn. His follow up to that film, which is this one, sees him reunite with Ryan Gosling. Given the circumstances, the anticipation for this one was understandably high. the film actually is compared to its trailer (which was amazing) is something that is still highly debated months after its release.

This is a very polarizing film, and perhaps one of the most divisive to come out in quite a while.

So what's this all about that has audiences and critics so divided?

Julian is an American in Thailand who runs a fighting club that is actually a front for a major drug operation. His brother rapes and murders a young prostitute, and is then himself killed by the girl's dad who was prompted to get his revenge by a mysterious law enforcement figue. In the wake of all this, Julian's domineering, cruel, and manipulative mother (a major underworld figure) forces her remaining living son to get revenge on those responsible for the older (and favored) brother's death.

Sounds like a brutal and amazingly engaging plot, but in reality, things aren't quite that way. Basically almost all of what I just described isn't actually given in the film, but comes from the marketing and promotional materials. There's not much plot, and very little that actually happens on the surface. There's less plot, dialogue, character development, and even characters than in Drive.

Instead we get vaguely drawn ideas of characters or character types, and a bunch of stuff going on, albeit way under the surface. Even then, what the film is about is something very open to interpretation. It's also got an amazingly strong sense of mood, tone, and atmosphere, as well as some gorgeous and super expressive cinematography.

This is a film that is about something, but it makes you work for it. That's either good or bad, depending on your perspective. I personally wanted to love this movie, but initially came away from it quite confounded. I've let it stew for quite a while though, and have warmed up to it a bit more, but still have some problems with it.

I think it's a bit too slow, pretentious, and vague for its own good. Yeah, I don't always like to get spoonfed everything, but this film doesn't feed the viewer enough. It is primarily driven by mood, tone, and atmosphere, and that's kinda cool, but I think it relies too much on this, and ends up coming off as half baked and undercooked more often than not.

The story is really cryptic, kinda confusing, and doesn't make a whole lot of sense...that is at least not initially, and after one viewing.

I like that Gosling seems to be preferring this type of movie over mainstream stuff, but I think he'd be wise to choose more films that are artsy without being so vague and thinly developed. He does okay here, but I am being a tad kind. The real breath of fresh air is Kristin Scott Thomas who plays the only character that actually has emotions, thoughts, and feelings, or at least ones that are clearly depicted. She's a saving grace of this film, and really needed to be in it more. More characters like her in general would also have been nice.

There are some neat sequences throughout, but given how the film explains little, and sometimes doesn't give proper context or payofff, their power is limited, and, in the case of a pivotal showdown, the results are sadly underwhelming.

All in all, this is a mess, but it's fascinating and hypnotic. It's a borderline failure for me, but since it looks cool, has some good moments, and provokes strong reactions and conversations, I have no problem giving it the faintest of recommendations.
January 14, 2014
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

It's undeniable that "Only God Forgives" completely brought the momentum of director Nicholas Winding Refn to a screeching halt critically. Universally panned, the film both cryptic and puzzling was not what the countless admires of 2011's hit "Drive" were expecting. Instead of an accessible thriller with the trappings of European art house, "Only God Forgives" is a baffling, almost Lynchian art house oddity. Viewers with only "Drive" as reference will be surprised to put it lightly. Those who have seen "Valhalla Rising?" Not so much.

I never expected to see Refn replicating his previous hit here, and I was right. For the insane, hypnotizing, occasionally impenetrable anomaly it is, "Only God Forgives" worked on me. Refn's film is a cohesive vision; through a highly interpretive narrative, we never feel lost as conventional storytelling goes off the rails. We are in the grasp of Refn's indulgent fever dream, and I was enthralled by a big chunk of it. Both beautiful and grotesque, "Only God Forgives" can feel a little off-putting in it's idiosyncrasies and for some the brutal violence and atmosphere, but the sight of some of the years most striking imagery (gorgeous photography from cinematographer Larry Smith) and art direction were more than enough to keep me roped in. Kristin Scott Thomas is also devilishly memorable as one of the most despicable mothers committed to film, almost as nightmarish as the otherworldly film itself.

In the end, summing the picture up in words is of little use. Like the most divisive works of David Lynch, "Only God Forgive" is either going to strike a chord with you or it won't. I kind of admire the reverie it is. I LOVED it's aesthetics.
January 11, 2014

Super Reviewer

Crystal: Just let me tell you, if the tables were turned, your brother, would have found your killer, and brought me his head on a platter!

"Time To Meet The Devil"

Only God Forgives is as big a disappointment as I have had from a film experience in quite some time. I remember being extremely excited when I first heard about this. I mean Nicholas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling teaming up again after the masterpiece of Drive sounded like a sure thing, but I guess there truly is no such thing. 

A sadistic cop kills the brother of an English gangster who runs a fight club in the underworld of Bangkok. His mother shows up and tries to pressure him into finding his brothers killer and killing him. That's about all of what makes up the plot and from that vantage point, it's pretty simple. But the movie has a weird way of boring the audience into confusion. While the movie is extremely violent and obsessed with it's strange style, it's also extremely dull and boring.

While Drive was a success with the same, low dialogue, high style way of presenting a story; Only God Forgives is a massive failure. It's easy to see why the film was pulverized by critics and booed at Cannes. What does this movie really leave us as an audience with when we're done. It seems like it's just being strange for the sake of being strange.

As much as it pains me to say this as much as I respect Gosling and Refn, there is absolutely no reason I can think of as to why you would need or even want to watch this movie. It serves almost no merit what so over and is more of a tedious exercise in style more than anything else. A complete waste of time.
November 23, 2013
Melvin White

Super Reviewer

    1. Julian: Wanna fight?
    – Submitted by Andrew M (13 months ago)
    1. Julian: Billy raped and killed a sixteen year old girl.
    2. Crystal: I'm sure he had his reasons, now sit.
    – Submitted by Keon R (13 months ago)
    1. Julian: Its a little bit more complicated then that mother.
    – Submitted by Allen R (14 months ago)
    1. Julian: You can keep that dress if you would like.
    2. Maď: I don't want it, why do you let her treat you like that?
    3. Julian: Cause she is my mother.
    4. Julian: Take it off!
    – Submitted by Allen R (14 months ago)
    1. Julian: What have you done?
    2. Crystal: I tried to do right by Billy, and now I'm going to pay.
    – Submitted by Keon R (14 months ago)
    1. Julian: I'd like you to meet my mother. I want us to pretend that we're a couple. Can you do that?
    – Submitted by Keon R (14 months ago)
View all quotes (12)

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