Movie Review – Only God Forgives

That’s right — this baby is SPOILER-FREE!

* * * * *



IMDB Rating: 6.4 out of 10 (7,262 votes)

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

The poster for Only God Forgives.

The poster for Only God Forgives.

We didn’t need violence this raw, but Only God Forgives gives it raw. Plastered in our face, embedded in our eyes, likeability subject to one’s tendency to squirm. I don’t squirm, but even I know it’s too much.

The violence is brutal. There are too many times in the film where I’m forced to only slightly turn my head. Too many times where I needed a break from the screen’s events. Only God Forgives is a film in which every type of body part is worked over. Not always tortured, but maybe sexually fashioned. But in this we feel it’s excess. Refn always says he treats violence like the act of sexual intercourse: “It’s all about the leadup.” Refn does it well. He creates the tension, the leadup. But his payoff is muddled. Having a young girl revealing herself to a man, then having a horrific torture scene, all in the same 5 minutes, is simply wrong. It doesn’t fit. And because there’s so much of this gratuitous violence, in the end it all becomes a little flat, a little meaningless, a little tasteless. That’s a rare thing for an extremely tasteful director to work his film to tastelessness.



Nicolas Winding Refn wrote the screenplay, and to be honest, it’s not a good screenplay. In the hands of a less stylized director, the film would have been pure uninteresting trash. But thankfully, Refn is extremely good at making the uninteresting visually pleasing. Yet as they say, “the good screenplay is the base of a good film”. Only God Forgives is not a good screenplay. The dialogue is pretty weak. And it tries far too hard to be Drive. So hard, in fact, that the actual thing ends up being nothing even close to Drive; it’s more brutal, it’s less sympathetic, and it’s much much worse as a whole. The character development is invisible for the first 40 minutes; by the time we start to actually feel SOMETHING for these supposed “humans”, it’s way too late in the film. We should be feeling something for the characters a long time before we actually do; maybe, even, before they’re horrifically killed.

And if there was ever a list of “films about nothing”, Only God Forgives would surely make it.

But despite these things, I enjoyed the film. Not because I like pointless films, but because Refn is such an incredible talent. I’m such a sucker for him…

Only God Forgives looks absolutely incredible. The neon is sublime. The cinematography, done by Larry Smith, is one of the best jobs I’ve seen in a long while. The sun is basically pointless in this world of Refn’s and Smith’s; everything happens at night, everything looks better at night, night is where we are, night is where Refn makes us want to be, simply because it looks so great. Refn’s direction is admirable; he’s becoming a hero of mine for his bold style. Longer shots let us observe the stunning neon, and his obsession with close-ups is now shared between the both of us. There’s just something Refn does with his camera, with his technique, that is so great. It’s such a great tool for focusing on things other than the man in the frame. The shadows, or the light, or the division. Gosling is good, like he was in Drive; his verbal material would barely take up a page, yet his facial expressions are great. His job is more or less Acting 101, but there’s a difference between doing something basic, and doing something basic well. And Cliff Martinez’s score is one of the best all year.

Where does he keep that sword?

Where does he keep that sword?

But besides that, Only God Forgives, one of my most anticipated films ever, falls flat.

If Nicolas Winding Refn turned out to be the “god” we speak of, then we eventually find out he does not forgive. Rather, he subjects us to violence of a distressing nature in his latest film, and he punishes us for ever thinking the beauty of the surroundings would match the beauty of a person. He is truly unforgiving.

MY RATING: 5.5 out of 10.

Enjoy this review? Like it! Follow the page! Share it with your friends.

Follow me on:

Twitter (@ElroyRosenberg)

Instagram (gooserosenberg)

Facebook (/TheSilverScreener)

Soundcloud — Audio Reviews (ElroyRosenberg)


5 responses to “Movie Review – Only God Forgives

  1. Great review, I enjoy your opinions in other reviews too. Since I am quite the fan of Gosling I will definitely go into watching Only God Forgives with a different take on what the director is trying to do.

  2. Loved the films aesthetic, did not mind the violence, hated the screenplay. I was so ready to watch this film and tell the masses why they were morons and how great this film was. But for a change it turned out the masses who hated on this film were correct, for once.

  3. Pingback: Movie ReReview – Only God Forgives | The Silver Screener

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s