I loved 2011’s Drive and was excited when I heard that the Danish filmmaker would be working with Ryan Gosling again. But Only God Forgives’ tale of an American drug dealer trying to get revenge for the murder of his rapist brother in Thailand is as unsettling as Drive was enthralling.
Don’t get me wrong, this movie is, if anything, even more beautifully shot than Drive. Every frame of this film is beautifully lit and stylishly composed. Refn manages to capture the lurid neon cityscape of Bangkok perfectly.
It’s just so fucking violent!
Refn has always used violence in his films, but it usually serves a purpose. In Only God Forgives, however, the violence isn’t so much a vehicle of the narrative as it is the narrative itself. There’s one particular scene which was so full-on that the woman in the seat next to me was screaming almost as loudly as the guy on screen who was having his eyeballs and eardrums cut out… I’m not even joking.
In terms of acting, Gosling is good as protagonist Julian, considering he spends 98 per cent of the film staring blankly at the camera. Kristen Scott Thomas does a great job too as his foul-mouthed crime boss mother with a serious Oedipus complex.
I can’t decide whether this film is a masterpiece or a self-indulgent piece of shit. It is a very brave film, though, and it will definitely stay with you, for good or ill.
Plus it did just take home the top prize at the 2013 Sydney Film Festival, so it comes with some decent endorsement.
Good for: Real movie buffs and sadomasochists… Definitely not a film for a first date!
5 out of 5 stars (because I couldn’t possibly have given it 1)