Only God Forgives (2013)
Only 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