Only God Forgives (2013)

220px-Only_God_Forgives_posterOnly God Forgives is an apt title for a movie that is replete with such suffering and brutality. Here is a movie that thinks wanton bloodshed and depravity is the same as character depth, and the fact that it’s from Nicolas Winding Refn, the writer/director of Drive might not be as surprising as you’d believe. I enjoyed 2011’s Drive but I wasn’t as taken with it as other critics, my chief complaint being a groping pretentiousness that confused emptiness as contemplation. I see the same issue with Only God Forgives, a grisly morality play that’s simplistic and overwrought at the same time. Once again Ryan Gosling plays a man of few words, so few that I counted he only says eight by the 28-minute mark (at this pace, he’ll dissolve into the background by 2015). Gosling’s brother was killed after the creep raped and murdered a 16-year-old prostitute in Thailand. Gosling’s ferocious mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) demands retribution on the Thai police, but Gosling has his reservations. What ensues is a string of glossy gore, tedious reprisals, and nonsensical plotting, including numerous karaoke sequences with the Thai cops. The movie’s emphasis is almost entirely on a hellish atmosphere, lots of lurid reds and harsh lighting, providing style but minimal substance. The characters are all detestable and unengaging, the story is awash in dreary and ponderous plotting, and the movie just reeks of pretension, every frame oozing with Important Symbolism (catch the emphasis on hands and wombs yet?). Only God Forgives would be forgivable if all of its admirable style and mood had some greater purpose. It’s a grueling movie to endure but the hardest part is getting through all the tedium thanks to the near-mute characters and a script overdosing on torture. At this rate, Refn’s next film will just be 90 minutes of Gosling punching a baby. Silently, of course.

Nate’s Grade: C


About natezoebl

One man. Many movies. I am a cinephile (which spell-check suggests should really be "epinephine"). I was told that a passion for movies was in his blood since I was conceived at a movie convention. While scientifically questionable, I do remember a childhood where I would wake up Saturday mornings, bounce on my parents' bed, and watch Siskel and Ebert's syndicated TV show. That doesn't seem normal. At age 17, I began writing movie reviews and have been unable to stop ever since. I was the co-founder and chief editor at (2007-2014) and now write freelance. I have over 1400 written film reviews to my name and counting. I am also a proud member of the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA) since 2012. In my (dwindling) free time, I like to write uncontrollably. I wrote a theatrical genre mash-up adaptation titled "Our Town... Attacked by Zombies" that was staged at my alma mater, Capital University in the fall of 2010 with minimal causalities and zero lawsuits. I have also written or co-written sixteen screenplays and pilots, with one of those scripts reviewed on industry blog Script Shadow. Thanks to the positive exposure, I am now also dipping my toes into the very industry I've been obsessed over since I was yea-high to whatever people are yea-high to in comparisons.

Posted on August 6, 2013, in 2013 Movies and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Good review Nate. Definitely a very strange flick, but one that also interested the hell out of me. I couldn’t wait to see what Refn was going to pull out of his dirty bag of tricks next and it was usually something new, or cool I haven’t seen him try before.

  2. Lots of great visual style on display in this film. However, that is about it, I wanted to fight Refn after watching this movie.

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