Only God Forgives, movie (2013)
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  • It was hailed as one of the best films of 2011
  • I know we're supposed to hate her character, but she does too good of a job
  • Despite the production value and solid acting, there is a lot to the content of the film that will make it hard to recommend
  • Everything Is Fine, was I left impressed with what I watched and mortified by what I watch at the same time


    • by Mackenzie Lambert

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      Drive marked the successful collaboration between director Nicolas Winding Refn and actor Ryan Gosling. It was hailed as one of the best films of 2011. When I heard that the pair were working together again, I was very intrigued by what they could create together next. After word that this film was booed at the Cannes Film Festival and the divided critical response, I was all the more curious to see this film. My own opinion of the film is as split as the critics.

      Julien (Gosling) and Ryan (Tom Burke) are brothers who run a fighter training camp, which serves as a front for their family’s drug operation. One night, Ryan rapes and kills a 16 year-old girl. When apprehended, the father of the dead girl is brought to the scene and is given an opportunity to extract some vengeance. The father ends up killing Ryan. The mysterious officer (Vithaya Pansringarm) overseeing the crime scene is not angry at the death of Ryan, but angry


      at the father for putting his own daughter in such danger.

      Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas), the mother of Julien and Ryan, flies in to find out who killed her son. Julien is not interested in vengeance and feels his brother got what he deserved. Yet, Crystal is blinded by familial loyalty to see the error of her late son’s actions. After a failed assassination attempt, the mysterious officer goes after both Crystal and Julian.

      Only God Forgives will either be admired or hated by viewers. There were many times, I was mesmerized by the production design and the cinematography. Just as many other times, I almost turned off the movie because the content was so difficult to watch at times. I really like this movie just as much as I have disdain for it.

      From a technical standpoint, it was a visually stunning film. Beth Mickle’s production design along with the art direction duo of Russell Barnes and Witoon Suanyai give the already exotic locale of Bangkok a stylish

      glow. The cinematography by Larry Smith with the crafty editing of Matthew Newman blend elements of classic noir with dream-like pacing. Say what you will about the content of the film, every shot looks like a work of art.

      Ryan Gosling puts in a low-key performance as Julien. Much like in Drive, he has little dialogue and quite subdued. Yet, there are moments where he is emotionally intense and you’re shocked by the sudden transition. His chemistry with Thomas and Rhatha Phongam, who plays his girlfriend, adds depth to his character while still keeping him a mystery.

      Speaking of Kristin Scott Thomas, she puts in the film’s surprise performance as the matriarch of her crime family. I know we’re supposed to hate her character, but she does too good of a job. The way she treats Gosling’s Julien like trash and some of her dialogue is some of the most heinous to ever come out of an actress’ mouth. At points, I wanted to kill her myself.


      • Only God Forgives, movie (2013)
      This is not because she gave a bad performance, but because she gave too good of a performance at being such a horrid person.

      Another noteworthy actor from the film is Vithaya Pansringarm as the enigmatic policeman targeted by the mother. His character has a view of justice that goes back to the Code of Hammurabi. His signature tool is an exotic sword, which cuts through people with ease. I hope Pansringarm receives a boost akin to Christophe Waltz and is cast in other films.

      Despite the production value and solid acting, there is a lot to the content of the film that will make it hard to recommend. For those who thought Drive was either too slow or too violent would do best to stay away from this film. The on-camera violence borders on obessive. Even the sight of the aftermath following the violence is brutal. One scene in particular, a harsh torture scene, is almost torture in of itself. Between the anticipation and the

      follow-through, I could barely keep my eyes on the screen as well as the fact that I couldn’t bring myself to turn away.

      With Bangkok as the setting, audiences catch a glimpse of the seedy sex culture. Brothels and child prostitution is not shied away. The incident that sets the plot of the film in motion will be too much for the majority of filmgoers. There are also some incestuous undertones between Crystal and Julien that feel inconsequential to the story and thrown in to shock people.

      This is a very difficult movie to recommend. The degree of talent involved with the film is undeniable. However, it pushes the envelope with regards to its violence and sexuality. Probably not since the Crispin Glover film, It is Fine! Everything Is Fine, was I left impressed with what I watched and mortified by what I watch at the same time. I would exercise caution when sitting down to view this film. You may not like what you see.




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    The review was published as it's written by reviewer in January, 2014. The reviewer certified that no compensation was received from the reviewed item producer, trademark owner or any other institution, related with the item reviewed. The site is not responsible for the mistakes made. 1129011625810931/k2311a0129/1.29.14
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