Starring: Ryan Gosling (Gangster Squad), Kristin Scott Thomas (Salmon Fishing in the Yemen), Vithaya Pansringarm (The Hangover Part II)
Writer/ Director: Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive)
Runtime: 1 hour 30 minutes
Release Date: 19 July (US), 2 August (UK)
You know my normal review format, right? Unless this is the first review of mine you have read. In which case: hi, how’d you do? Anyway, back to proceedings. At the start, I normally do a brief intro about the movie, any expectations I had, and then question whether it is good or not. Well, f*** that. Let’s just cut to the chase: Only God Forgives sucks. It is pretentious, boring, and lacks any sense of personality or soul. And this is coming from a person who absolutely loved Refn’s previous film Drive; in fact, it was my favourite film of 2011. You need more than that? Fine. Allow me to go into more detail on this travesty.
Now at this point, I’d normally go over the plot. But Only God Forgives seems above having a cohesive narrative. I literally only saw this movie about an hour or so ago, and I couldn’t tell you what the overarching story of this movie is. I could describe you some scenes, but that would just confuse you more. So for 90 minutes, prepare for unlikable and unrelatable characters with no redeeming qualities whatsoever, gratuitous violence that lack any sense of wit or meaning, scenes of staring that rival those in any Twilight movie, creepy sexual moments that will have you wincing whilst questioning why you’re still watching this trash, and karaoke. No, seriously, there’s like three scenes where the movie just stops and we listen to someone sing some karaoke. It’s like stepping into one of Nicolas Winding Refn’s wet dreams: a land full of violent and sexual images that ultimately mean nothing in the grand scheme of things. What’s that you say? Only 90 minutes? That doesn’t sound that bad. Sure, the movie only lasts 90 minutes, but has such poor pacing and lacks anything of interest that the film feels like it lasts at least twice that long. Combine that with the fact there are several scenes that just go nowhere and ultimately have no impact on anything. You could cut this movie down to about 20 minutes and it would make about as much sense, if not more. I’d go on and on, but I don’t want to waste too much of your time; that’s something Only God Forgives is more than happy to do if you’re interested in wasting time.
Here, I would normally talk the characters and the acting skills of those who play them. But to call what most of the cast of Only God Forgives do “acting” would be a disservice to the profession, and to call who they play “characters” would indicate they actually had personalities and depth to them. Ryan Gosling, whose stoic but menacing performance in Drive was truly effective, fails to play an even more enigmatic “character” here. He barely talks nor even emotes; his range of facial expression and tone of voice here makes Keanu Reeves look like a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Pansringarm plays the “villain” I guess, and he is equally robotic and lifeless. As is most of the rest of the cast. Kristin Scott Thomas seems to be the only person who seems to have any kind of personality, even if it is a really s***ty one. Any time her and Gosling are on screen together, it feels like a battle between overacting and underacting.
If there is anything nice to say about this turd, at least they’ve attempted to polish it with the finest materials. The cinematography is very pretty, utilising colour and light in a very similar way to Drive but also feels unique enough to stand on its own. The music is also very fitting, and helps to ease the terrible pacing. I usually don’t mention sound design, but that is also done very well and helps make all the gratuitously pointless violence feel that much more brutal and senseless. But no matter how much effort you put into it, you can’t gold plate some s*** and expect me to buy it.
What more do I need to say? This movie is terrible. Don’t see it unless you like hitting yourself in the face whilst naked, covered in blood and dancing to techno. This is style over substance at its worst. That’s not to say that Only God Forgives lacks substance; the substance is just pretentiousness soaked in entrails and excrement. I guess Refn wanted to do something more experimental after doing Drive, a film that is more mainstream than his usual work (but that’s not saying much). But you didn’t have to go and make something this full of wank. To quote Steve Martin in Planes, Trains and Automobiles: “Here’s a good idea. Have a point. It makes it so much more interesting for the listener!” Couldn’t have said it any better myself. F*** this movie!
FINAL VERDICT: 1.5/10