Customer Review

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A genuinely abysmal film., 3 Nov. 2013
This review is from: Only God Forgives [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
What can I say? I expect that, like most people, I approached `Only God Forgives' with a certain level of expectation stemming from my appreciation of `Drive'. That may have been a mistake. It's always important to remain objective when reviewing a film; I think that you shouldn't base your review on a comparison to another and that each film should be judged independently. However, Nicholas Winding Refn seems to have gone out of his way to make OGF very similar to Drive, so comparing the two films is inevitable I'm afraid. The violence, the lead character, the music, the cinematography and the tone of the film are all very similar to its predecessor, the difference is the quality of the story and the characters involved.

The plot is a basic one, Ryan Gosling's brother is executed by a ruthless Thai police officer and his family plot their vengeance against him. Ok, sounds exciting right? Wrong! The plot sets itself up quickly but then fizzles out and wanders around aimlessly for the best part of the film. I expect that some people would say that the film gave a lot of time to exploring the depth of the characters and the richness of the moral circumstances. These were certainly elements of Drive, but not here. Cue 45 minutes of Ryan Gosling looking brooding and complex; Vithaya Pansringarm looking menacing and callously celebrating his kills with a round of Karaoke; disturbingly depraved sexual references; random, disjointed symbolic dream sequences and about 10 lines of script. Eventually it all boils down to fisticuffs (as suggested by the "Wanna fight?" segment of the trailer) in a fight scene that is brilliantly choreographed but marred by the distance of the shot from the action. The ending is dull and fruitless, save for one remarkable, graphic scene that draws heavily on the oedipal complex.

The film does have some merits which is why I have given two stars instead of one. The cinematography is fantastic; the use of colour, tone and shade in the seedy cityscape is reminiscent of films like Black Rain and Blade Runner. Cliff Martinez does his part well with the score; although I didn't care for the style of the film, the music is extremely well-constructed and fitting. The kill scenes are brutal and mesmerizing and are, without a doubt, the highlights of the films. And finally, Kristin Scott-Thomas is extremely impressive in her role as the deranged mother of Julian; the lady does more acting in her first scene alone than Ryan Gosling or Vithaya Pansringarm have to do in the entire film. Sadly, these few elements do not amount to much.

In my opinion, this is the worst film set in Asia since `I Come With the Rain'. Why-oh-why films like this win awards like the Palme D'Or, I will never know. Perhaps if they had marketed OGF to make it look less like an exciting, gritty thriller and more like an art-house study of family and loyalty, then less people would have watched it expecting it to be like `Drive'. It's just a thought...
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