Wednesday, July 24, 2013
REVIEW: Only God Forgives
Only God Forgives
Kristen Scott Thomas
July 19, 2013
Nicolas Winding Refn
1 hour 30 minutes
Two years ago, director Nicolas Winding Refn and indie darling Ryan Gosling teamed up for the fantastic romantic action thriller "Drive," which Refn won the Best Director award for at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. After "Drive," people wondered what Refn was going to be doing next. Sure enough, Winding Refn teamed up with Gosling once again for an original story called "Only God Forgives." Gosling plays Julian, a drug dealer/boxing club owner in Bangkok, Thailand, whose older brother has just been murdered by men involved with the cops. After Julian's mother, played by Kristen Scott Thomas, flies to Bangkok to see her son's corpse and attempt to rekindle a relationship with her now only living son, she desperately demands Julian to avenge his brother's death and kill those with any connections to the murder. What could have been such a great follow up to a fantastic film noir instead is a movie that believes it's better than it actually is. "Only God Forgives" is a confusing, unintentionally hilarious, and boring film that may very well be THE definition of the term "style over substance."
The main thing, and it's a huge thing, that brings the quality of this film down is the direction/script from Nick Winding Refn. It seemed to me that Refn, while making this film, believed that he was a god and could get away with doing whatever he wanted to do. Well to Refn, I say, even Stanley Kubrick, Terrence Malick, and Steven Spielberg have had their bad films. He tells his actors to move as slowly as possible, and that's not even an exaggeration. Plus, the script has so little dialogue that the film might as well be a silent movie, ala "The Artist" or something. I personally believe that Nicolas Winding Refn had a crazy dream one night that was set in Bangkok and wrote that dream down and that became this film. There are sequences, that literally come out of nowhere, where Gosling's character is day-dreaming for no apparent reason. That's one of the main reasons why the film's ending makes no sense at all unless you read the Wikipedia synopsis. I don't even blame the actors or anyone else involved with the production for the final cut of the film. It was all Refn's doing, and I have one Here's my final message to hi: having pretty images and some cool music does not make a satisfying movie.
The sad thing regarding the actors in the film is that all of them are talented, yet aren't given anything of quality to work with. Ryan Gosling is basically playing the same exact character that he played in "Drive," only this time he talks less and doesn't do much other than pose and randomly beat people up. In fact, there is a scene where Gosling randomly screams at another character after a confrontation with his mother. I don't know if that was supposed to be funny, but I was laughing my head off when that happened.
Kristen Scott Thomas is despicable and annoying as Julian's mother. For about 85-90% of the movie, she is either screaming her head off or saying almost every curse word found in the book. This is the type of performance that just makes you want to jump into the movie and shoot the character point blank in the head, ending their presence once and for all. I know Thomas is a very talented actress, but she was just going way to over the top with this one. Asian actor Vithaya Pansringarm plays the head cop, aka the main villain, in the film, and he does little to nothing, other than stare, play with his samurai sword, or sing karaoke. I could sense talent in his performance, but there wasn't anything really breathtaking at the same time. I would talk about the other actors in the film, but their parts were so small that they're not even worth mentioning. The actors in this movie are very talented, but Nick Winding Refn's script and direction brought their performances down.
The only two good things to say about this movie is the cinematography and the score. Larry Smith definitely has a craft because this film looks just gorgeous. Every shot looked planned out and is really candy for the eyes. Cliff Martinez, best known for working on the "Drive" soundtrack, brings a solid electric vibe with his music, and his track "Wanna Fight" is one of the best songs on a soundtrack all year. The fact that the only redeeming qualities about this movie is that it looks and sounds good is a true example of how a movie should not be. This film is nothing but pure style. If it had anything more than good cinematography and a good soundtrack, then the film wouldn't have been as awful as it is. As I said before, this film is the exact definition of the term "style over substance."
It's a shame that "Only God Forgives" turned out as awful as it is, but then again, no director is perfect. My personal belief is that Nicolas Winding Refn wanted to make a movie that would only please him and his die-hard fans. The acting is either too subtle or way to over the top, the story sometimes makes no sense due to the lack of explanation, the film is often boring and moving at half the speed that it should be, and the film features a mediocre script that has some of the most unintentionally funny moments of 2013. This just shows what happens when a director is so fond of himself that he thinks that he can make anything and people will love it. As someone who loved "Drive," I gotta say that this is a gigantic step down for Refn. God may forgive Nicolas Winding Refn for "Only God Forgives," but I can't, because this film was just such a goddamn atrocity.