Only God Forgives - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Only God Forgives Reviews

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March 11, 2018
½ March 2, 2018
This was both the most beautiful cinematography as well as being the most violent movie I have seen in a long time. It ended and I was left wondering what I was supposed to take away from the story....
March 2, 2018
Great movie. You must have an aquired taste for weird films to really enjoy this work. Refn and Gosling come together again for an awesome movie.
February 7, 2018
That Thailand never came under foreign rule has little to do with its nationalist resilience and more to do with the reluctant compromise brokered by competing colonials.Writer-Director Nicholas Winding Refn, when basking in Thailand, might have thought - What if the blithely marauding Westerners actually encountered a native force that blew away each and every one of them ? What if I set this premise in modern Bangkok and re-employ my trademarks of seductive narrative style and bursts of stylized graphic violence ?

The realized result is a modern masterpiece : a movie that is Thailand refracted through Scandinavia temperamentally and visually. Designed as a series of violent face-offs between a group of foreigners and a top-cop in the badlands of Bangkok, this is a story that moves like poetry, with remarkable characters and highly unusual situations. Languid visual flow is punctuated by ultra-violent orgies, as mood-enhancing musical undertow often eases our immersion. If you thought Refn's previous "Drive" was an exemplary fusion of the art movie and the action flick, wait till you witness "Only God Forgives" which amps up all those elements into a still more superior orchestration of pure film-making.

Pic's opening slowly descends into hell when Billy, a young American drug dealer living in Bangkok, prowls the night to satisfy his criminal perversion and ends up raping and brutally murdering a girl who's barely in her teens. That brings a middle-aged top cop - Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm) - into the fray. That same night, the latter dispenses justice to multiple parties in a way that is equally savage. Billy's brother Julian (Ryan Gosling) hears of this whole horror story and decides not to take revenge. But his mother Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas) flies in from the USA, seething. An embittered and fiercely dangerous woman, she recruits the local goons - both European and Thai - in finishing off Chang. But she never realizes the nature and power of the man she seeks to kill. By the times she does, it is ...

Refn uses the 90 minute runtime as a series of lyrical small steps between bigger scenes that are lavishly set-up like theatre extravaganzas. And each of these major set-pieces are themselves composed of unexpected progressions conducted with clean flourish. One may initially feel the brief runtime is too short for the movie's own good, but one progressively realizes that this is a movie that breathes and soars in the moment, and not by its overall length.

The stark colours of Bangkok's red light districts probably seem to have served as an inspired nidus ; a starting point, to Cinematographer Larry Smith who layers and frames Bangkok in a style never seen before. Smith de-clutters his canvas, carefully chooses mise en scene, often makes the tones starker, and consistently achieves cool refreshing levels of colour saturation. The backdoors of the boxing arena and the boudoirs - both places associated with carnage of different kinds - darkly bathe in pools of red gold orange and black. Enhanced by Beth Mickle's inspired production design, a formal dinner-table scene involving Ryan, his mother, and his girlfriend is a magnificent masterpiece of colour and form.

At the other end of the spectrum, a foray into a garage - a cavernous commercial one - again discloses a striking visual aesthetic, with the floors completely swept clean of any object while the walls are heavily festooned with hardware. Crystal's high-ceilinged plus-size hotel room drips designer style and its spaces are captured with the same cool scope as the barren warrens of luridly lit indoor nights glimpsed elsewhere. Outdoors, the shabby crowded areas of many Asian city sidewalks can seem daunting for clean captures but Smith & Refn (you have a nice-sounding designer label right there!) pare down the crowd, tame the lines in the frame and then shoot with slick dynamism.

Refn craftily leaves the moral compass of the story slightly askew. Julian, to start with, is a lean handsome youngster who makes a good impression by justly deciding to not avenge his evil brother's fate. But he is hopelessly ensnared in his rabid mother's clutches and gives too much heed to her deeply criminal proclivities. He's a poisoned pup, and we see him ambling and snarling to get past the caul which he often does not want to cast off.

Expertly embodied by Vithaya Pansringarm, Chang the top-cop, from the get-go, seems so psychologically formidable that we don't fear any strain of vulnerability in him. His actions are so cleanly violently exactly effective in sending the opposition packing that one wonders what would happen if he actually sustained a grievous hit. Physically while he is of modest build, he carries a hidden sword which he uses to nightmarish effect, and his middle-aged body still serves as a deceptively agile vehicle when he is provoked to reveal his expert skill in body-to-body martial arts.

He is never shown to shout or raise his voice, but his face, calm and forbidding by turns, and his definitive actions set him up as a demi-god of justice uncorrupted by foreign money and its attendant lures. Young kick-boxers range around to bow and salute this middle-aged gent as he visits Julian's den. He lives in a rural-looking modestly built house and courtyard, and when he gazes out from his house window there are sky-scrapers in the yonder while the foreground has a lake and greenery. Plainly native in his appearance and commitment, with no wife but a little daughter he dotes over, he establishes highly enigmatic entry into world cinema's alpha heroes.

Behaviourally, the entire rasping black forest of this ensemble belongs to Kristin Scott Thomas. Her portrayal of the jaw-droppingly venomous Crystal is amongst the best of cinema's vamps. The men may wreak their physical havoc but she delivers the carnage verbally. Her words and demeanour during her first scene in the film, in an ideal world, should have had the bouncer throwing her out on her gluteals onto the sidewalk, but since this is our world, she is ushered in expedited fashion to a enormous fit-for-a-queen hotel suite. When her younger son Julian tells her that he didn't avenge his brother Billy's death because Billy was punished for raping and murdering a fourteen year old girl, Crystal barely skips a beat when she retaliates curtly "I'm sure he had his reasons!".

Dinner with Julian and his beautiful partner in a dazzlingly opulent set-up, shows her in rip-roaring form as she tears into the girlfriend, mocks her son heinously and then wells up in sparse tears asking to be excused as she is grieving over the death of her first-born (Louis Mazzini from 'Kind Hearts and Coronets' - "Women have a disconcerting ability to make scenes out of nothing and approve themselves injured when they themselves are at fault!") Persistently commissioning murder in revenge, she is terrific in externalizing her volcanic dysphoria, especially she snarls "...would have brought me his head on a platter!" and that last word is venomously splattered as she thumps the table to coincide with that coda.

There is not much to admire in the deliberately toned-down psychologically damaged persona of Julian essayed by Ryan Gosling but I still congratulate Gosling for having the heart to agree to be only an associate element in the larger vaulting vision that this film is.

Cliff Martinez's background score is an exercise in calibrated gorgeosity. Of modern music spun and smoothed and glinted as if in an inspired hypnosis, but given an end-polish that is nothing but sober in elevating the scenes to a higher deeper level. Note the way that it captures the trans-cultural ethos by how a thrill-generating tropical drum roll leads to a grand coda from organ music. In the restaurant dinner scene it stays silent knowing that Crystal is verbally spewing enough wildly colourful vitriol to colour the background, foreground and everything in between. When a maimed father reveals how he was given the lesson of his life, all other sound is turned off and trippy chimes waft through the soundscape to complement the change in preconceived decisions. In Chang Vs Julian's kick-boxing match, the circular nature of the arena is subtly mirrored in throbbing loop upon loop of synthetic strains.

As bikes skim through the streets of nocturnal Bangkok in quest of cop-killing, frisson is stylishly slowly built up with contrapuntal currents of percussion and guitar which then tail off. As signals to open fire are quietly traded, all ambient sound dies down, a tidal wave of white noise swiftly surges up just as a tabletop is thrown above as a shield by the suddenly pre-emptive cops, and machine gunfire rips through the low hum. After that explosive salvo, other composers might have been tempted to rev up their arsenal to complement a chase through the alleys but Martinez silences the instruments to amplify the private thrill of the chase.

Thematically, 'Only God Forgives' is a striking modern legend of the East towering over the West. Technically, it is a hypnotic blend of seductive visuals and bravura music. And East or West , there is no movie like it.

Super Reviewer
January 22, 2018
This is a very stylistic film but an extremely odd storyline. Gosling and Refn teamed for the far superior Drive, which balanced the storytelling with the brutal realities of violence. I can't understand the reason for this film, it has an empty character hole which it never attempts to fill. The film has a great cast and you easily get swept up in the gritty filmmaking that keeps you guessing. I had this pegged at a 4 until that final 20 minutes, just a giant waste of an ending. I understand indie cinema but who was this film made for? Gosling deserves a better film than this. 20-01-2017.
January 21, 2018
It would be great to set up a fight between the Thai cop and Robert McCall in The Equalizer.
January 18, 2018
Beautiful visuals stand out among this simple, yet undoubtedly slow revenge flick.
January 15, 2018
Beautiful Lighting, Unique Character Development And A Storyline That Isn't Romantic.
January 9, 2018
Refn's uses mostly the visuals to tell the story, but his narrative with few dialogues doesn't work as well as he thinks.
½ January 2, 2018
It's gorgeous to look at and succesfully creates a dream-like atmosphere. But this is a dull, ultraviolent dream that doesn't really tell an interesting story or make an interesting point. There are some stunning sequences, but it's too heavy-handed and overly metaphorical to make up for its thin plot.
December 6, 2017
Incredible and powerful moments, as well as mesmerizing direction from Refn, make Only God Forgives an experience instead of simple, cinematic white noise.
½ November 19, 2017
trailers Catfished me
November 10, 2017
This movie was stupid. Nothing happened in 30 mins. Ryan gosling just started at people and people talked Thai. That was about it. Pass on this one.
November 6, 2017
Okay. I get that the film is unconventional. I get that the point of the story may be very hard to grasp because of the intentionally choppy way of adding dreams and visions. But this movie isn't meant to be straightforward and is meant to make you think and pay attention and I love it. It looks beautiful, sounds beautiful and tells a very unconventional story that ultimately does make sense as long as you commit yourself to the experience. The characters are very hard to really care too much for since they're all metaphors but if you just put yourself in the director's shoes and see that this was intentionally unconventional and more of an experimental arthouse film, then it's a good movie. Not for everyone but for those who truly appreciate film and creativity.
October 17, 2017
Not great on the surface but the deeper world will draw you in and Julian (Ryan Gosling) is a great character to get attached to and has layers to peel back.
½ September 20, 2017
Style over substance.
½ September 12, 2017
Sumamente aburrida, lenta y dificil de entender. A primer solo entendํ que su hermano hizo muy mal, lo mataron y la madre mato al que le mato.
September 11, 2017
An incredible film that requires a lot of thinking in order to fully appreciate.
½ August 15, 2017
A stylishly captivating thriller that is not for the feint of heart. Ryan Gosling plays it cool (maybe too cool) as the troubled main character who seems to hold a deeper meaning (maybe?). All in all, overall I still am not one hundred percent sure on what happened within this choppy film, yet I still found the finer moments of ONGF to be enough to draw me in. The silence of the flick though will be off putting along with the graphic interludes that seem oddly placed. Overall, ONGF is a beautifully constructed film that lures with its sights and sounds. Whether or not the full package delivered has yet to be fully decided upon...
½ July 29, 2017
A very underrated film, although some scenes may be to over the top. Cinematography is beautiful and the story is told excellently without the use of much dialogue
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