Only God Forgives - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Only God Forgives Reviews

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July 26, 2017
The general consensus is that this Nicolas Winding Refn("Drive", "Bronson", "Valhalla Rising", the "Pusher" trilogy) flick fails to live up to its predecessor's("Drive") level and while people applauded "Only God Forgives"'s visual flair, many have criticized its messy narrative and slow pace.

And yes, this film has serious problems in the narrative department and its fairly slow paced, I admit to this. However, "the wisdom of the masses" is wrong(not that it would have been the first time, or smth).

First of all, on a closer look, neither "Drive", nor "Only God Forgives" don't shine, as far as their narratives are concerned. Yes, "Drive" follows a more traditional setup, so the plot is clearer, but it doesn't stand out. What stands out, is the style. Take that away its style and "Drive" becomes a complete waste. The narrative is there only to offer the viewer a sense of familiarity.

And here is where the problems start, as far as "Drive" is concerned. The style is fairly engaging and could have been more so, had it not been interrupted by the "familiar episodes". Yes, they work well enough to trick some viewers into taking them seriously, but they didn't have the same effect on me. I found them frustrating, unconvincing, sometimes laughable even.
And this is why I gave "Drive" a fairly low rating: its craftsmanship is quite remarkable, but it is sabotaged at every turn by cheap and convenient devices and ends up delivering far less than it should have. It isn't a bad film, but a sterile one. It's like that tune that starts out great and then it progresses to something recycled/cliched.

"Only god forgives", on the other hand, throws away all these narrative "pleasantries" and delves deeper into its madness. Yes, it appeals to a smaller audience, but I think Refn knew this from square one, so it's pointless to talk about it.

"Only god forgives" communicates exclusively , photography, inspired soundtrack and thematic shots and, in general, it does a good job.

n the downside, however, this is "undercooked", the dialogue needed some serious improvement(I don't mind that it's vague, but it's also clumsy) and it's too over-the-top for its own good. For example, the restaurant scene with julien, his mother and Mai is embarrassing. Actually, the way Julien mother is written is misguided and unconvincing, to begin with.

Overall, while definitely not a masterpiece, I found this to be far better than people say it is. Yes, Ryan Gosling still offers a bland performance, but here, it kinna works.

My two cents: 3.5/5
July 24, 2017
A chintzy bore, which vaguely uses a half-baked revenge story as an excuse to showcase dull dreamlike sequences interspersed with grisly images. Meant stimulate, but instead just slogs on a hypnotic score, long tracking shots, and dead silence from stiff characters.
½ July 15, 2017
Nicolas Winding Refn's follow up to Drive is even more beautifully shot with striking visuals and amazing uses of lighting and colour. Plot wise, this film has little and it isn't very coherent at times. All of the characters don't seem human, but that's really the point - their violent, criminal lives have sapped all humanity from them. If you can get past that, this film is a beautiful and horrific trip into Winding Refn's mind.
June 4, 2017
This movies only saving grace is the performance of Ryan Gosling
½ June 3, 2017
Stylish but that is about it. Basically a Bangkok themed version of drive for Gosling to preen his way through without saying a word. Only Kristin Thomas delivers in what is a very bland and simple plot.
Super Reviewer
½ June 2, 2017
Visually excellent but with a story that fits on a beer coaster, director Refn doesn't even try to copy his masterpiece Drive. You gotta admire him for being weird, but this is pretty far out there. The violence is gruesome, the movie slow and with very few words, yet oddly mesmerizing thanks to its colorful images. The ending is pure chaos. You can't help but think: What the hell did I just watch?
½ April 21, 2017
What a powerful movie! Poetic and cruel journey of a shattered soul yearning for a just punishment or even a redemption
April 13, 2017
Refn does it again, I've grown quite the fan of his filmmaking recently with The Neon Demon and now this. I watched Drive some years ago now but I think Drive was more towards mainstream movie go'ers, Only God Forgives doesn't have a lot of dialogue but there doesn't need to be, you follow the story through the stunning visuals and unique cinematography. Artsy and violent is two other words I'd choose to describe this movie, a must watch.
April 10, 2017
This film will become a cult classic, just let the years pass...
March 24, 2017
It's too bad Nicolas Winding Refns' movies has a tendency to attract mentally retarded people.
Not his best film, but greatly underrated.
March 23, 2017
Only God Forgives is trademark Refn, meaning the visual style is beautiful and abundant, but he gets to lost in metaphors and symbolism to be able to derive any story or character of any kind to support his heavy themes.
Super Reviewer
½ March 22, 2017
Herein lay one of my most internally divisive viewings. In this short, critically derided follow up to 2011's "Drive", Nicolas Winding Refn puts a small budget, neon gore-fest up for scrutiny. Digesting his "style over substance" can be arduous for new comers, but as I have spent a few years ruminating on Refn's output, I've grown to appreciate what he has to show and say. Directors like David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick earned their place among the greatest film makers because they crafted their own visual language and style, ingraining themselves into the cinematic zeitgeist with little regard for what the average film-goer might think. They didn't have to pander to anyone because they knew their work was self-evident, but it took them a very long time to be beyond reproach.

Now, I've seen enough movies that go with or against the grain that I usually hope to see the latter, but when I saw "Only God Forgives" for the first time, I was mostly nonplussed. After viewing most of his other films though, it finally clicked. Refn is a Mario Bava fan. That was all I needed to know to see that this guy knew exactly what he wanted to do and was doing it properly. Bava's horrific, gawdy, and enticing eye for color and shading just ooze from each of his films. "Only God Forgives" is Refn's hermitage in the school of Bava. While "Bronson" may have solidified Refn's visual style, this film solidifies his entire oeuvre. The suspense, violence, dark psychological horror, and soulless characters are like a blend of the action and horror schlock of Bava with the subconscious ennui of Lynch. And the cinematography is indisputably awesome. All of this adds up to an auteur who I will gladly support in any future endeavors, haters be damned.

Masculine violence is not only a heavy theme in this film but in all of Refn's filmography. In this film, this violence stems from phallic legitimacy. Gosling is constantly emasculated by his mother who bluntly criticizes his penis size, insists that he is jealous of his deceased pedophile brother, and intimidates him into running her drug business for her. As for the "antagonist" (the sword-wielding cop), he doles out justice in the form of penetration. He has a sword with which to take away others' agency (their arms, mostly, another phallic representation), and when he kills in the name of justice it is always through a penetrating act.

Retributive justice is the overarching theme. The film's title will clue you in on the fact that each character, without exception, demands retribution for all wrongdoings and poor intentions. Chief among them, Ryan Gosling's character has been fantasizing about being punished for his patricide while relishing in his vicarious matricide. As his mother, played by Kristen Scott Thomas, says: "He killed his father with his bare hands". She says this in a feigned plea for life to the sword-wielding cop. Upon discovering her body, her son cuts a new hole in her womb and thrusts his fist into it - paralleling the earlier scene of his fantasy of putting his fist into his girlfriend in the karaoke club while she sits in the booth. (It's the only way he can express his manly feelings!) By the end of the film, even though Gosling has (arguably) done nothing wrong except for do as he is told, he has still internalized that he deserves punishment, and he offers up his hands to be cut off.

Those last two paragraphs give more clemency to the film than the majority of initial reviews combined. I saw the same response to last year's "The Neon Demon" because nobody wants to lend these films any intellectual credence. The wonderful thing about Refn's filmography is that they all look terrific. So, why wouldn't you go back over a beautifully filmed composition to get the most out of it? I've had plenty of knee-jerk reactions to films that initially pissed me off, but if they made me that sick or mad or hateful, I went back and re-watched them to figure out just what it was that made me so averse in the first place. The irony is that many who criticize Refn's films for "lacking substance" are at a loss for substantial critiques of said films. All I'm saying is give this one and "Valhalla Rising" another chance.
March 14, 2017
Surreal trip of a film with great visuals & synth sounds.
March 11, 2017
Its funny how critics can get things wrong. Starring Ryan Gosling Kristin Scott Thomas, and Vithaya Pansringarm . Only god forgives is about a man Julian [Ryan Gosling], a drug smuggler living in Bangkok. Julian's life is about to get more complicated when he is tasked by his mother to avenge his brother. Directed by Nicolas Windng Refn this visual stunning and ultra violent psychological thriller that offers great cinematography and long takes throughout each scene as well as great performances from the entire cast. Only god forgives has a very intriguing and interesting premise that is very much up to discussion and will leave many confused and annoyed with what they just watched without giving themselves and the film time to process what they just watched. As only god forgives has very heavy metaphors it proved to difficult for critics to comprehend. Only god forgives is visually stunning with good performances but will only be appreciated by those who are curious. Althought there is a very unnecessarily long torture scene. critics who complain that movies aren't original but when one does come along they cant comprehend the brilliance of only god forgives. The movie is mainly about a man challenging his emotions and past as well as god.
March 2, 2017
I can understand why many wouldn't get into this movie but I loved it. Stylish and purposeful in its use of violence.
½ February 5, 2017
Only God Forgives is first and foremost an exercise in style, and Nicolas Winding Refn achieves this with every shot. The images are both surreal and hyperreal, and are what convey the film's narrative. The violence is quite visceral, and perhaps even gratuitous, but it serves its purpose in context with the film's premise. And the cinematography is absolutely gorgeous. as its composition is what tells the film's story.

Consequently, there isn't a lot of dialogue in this film and there aren't really any heroes, thus making it difficult to care for the characters at hand. And the main character, played by Ryan Gosling, isn't necessarily the main focus, either, thus making it difficult to care for him.

The deliberately stoic performances from the actors, however, are actually fascinating, as the constant staring at least has somewhat of an emotional flare, just enough for characters to have mute conversations with unspoken dialogue. And Kristen Scott Thomas is outstanding as the cold bitch that is her character, Crystal.

Symbolism becomes key to understanding the point of the film. To explain without spoiling the film, one would have to figure out what in the film is symbolic, and then make connections with the bits of information serving the premise's background to believe in Refn's intentions.

While the cinematography is outstanding for being able to tell a story, the music, done by Cliff Martinez who previously scored Refn's Drive, is wonderfully moody for every situation.

Refn's stylistic storytelling in Only God Forgives should invest viewers to marvel at this oftentimes daring art-house flick that circumvents conventional film storytelling in favor of cinematography as means of film narration. What hurts the film is as aforementioned the lack of likeable characters, and I will agree that its influences are a bit too heavy for the film to be original, but it pays dear respect to those influences for its style to hold its own.
½ January 29, 2017
One of the best photography, illumination, cinematography, frames, composition I ever see in a movie, just WOW! the story is a 7 of 10
January 29, 2017
The title is 'Only God Forgives' but I don't even think God can forgive this one. I love Drive, it's one of my favourite films of this decade but this was too weird for my liking. I'll say what I liked first: the visuals are stunning, everything from the costume design to the cinematography and set pieces. The score was also mesmerising. As for performances, Ryan Gosling is one of my favourite actors working today but he had nothing to work with in this film, he does his best but his lack of back story and even lines make it incredibly difficult. I got the metaphors for guilt and God but the underlying themes, of incest in particular, the stomach scene and the pointless over the top violence (from a director who has admitted he has a fetish for it) just makes it so easy to dislike. I feel like Refn doesn't really care what people think but if he does he really didn't help himself by putting certain things in the final movie.
January 29, 2017
I haven't a scooby doo what this film is about but it is visually brilliant a true stylishly filmed movie. Ryan seems an odd choice for this type of film but he works well in it.
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