Newest Reviews
Foreigner, The
Clones, The
Monster Hunt
Happy End
Ugly American, The
Ritual of Evil
Vigilante Diaries
Happy Death Day
You Can't Stop the Murders
Legend of the Mountain
Man: The Polluter
Wolf Warrior II
Journey to the Seventh Planet
Ghost Story, A
Lady in the Lake
Devil at Your Heels, The
Paddington 2
Two Jakes, The
Re: Born
Dracula Sucks
Perfect Weapon, The
Hollywood Babylon
True Legend
Die Laughing
Thor Ragnarok
Killing of a Sacred Deer, The
This Beautiful Fantastic
Monocle, The
Newest Articles
Stop That, It's Silly: The Ends of Monty Python
They're All Messed Up: Night of the Living Dead vs Land of the Dead
The House, Black Magic and an Oily Maniac: 3 from 70s Weird Asia
80s Meet Cute: Something Wild vs Into the Night
Interview with The Unseen Director Gary Sinyor
Wrong Forgotten: Is Troll 2 Still a Thing?
Apocalypse 80s UK: Threads and When the Wind Blows
Movie Flop to Triumphant TV Revival: Twin Peaks and The League of Gentlemen
Driving Force: The Golden Age of American Car Chases
Madness in his Method: Jim Carrey and Andy Kaufman
  Only God Forgives Might Be Better HighBuy this film here.
Year: 2013
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vithaya Pansringarm, Gordon Brown, Yayaying Rhatha Phongam, Tom Burke, Sahajak Boonthanakit, Pitchawat Petchayahon, Charlie Ruedpokanon, Kowit Wattanakul, Wannisa Peungpa, Narucha Chaimareung, Danai Thiengdham
Genre: Horror, Drama
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: In the criminal underworld of Bangkok American expat Julian (Ryan Gosling) makes a living somewhere near the top of the tree, running kickboxing matches and making a tidy profit from that as well as the drugs money he rakes in from his other interests. But he has a brother who is far less in control, Billy (Tom Burke), who tonight after attending a match goes looking for a prostitute, ending up at a club where he has his pick of a collection of women, though he asks for the owner's daughter instead. That doesn't go down well, and neither does his subsequent rampage when he smashes a bottle over the owner and drags away one of the prostitutes...

After Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling teamed up for the cult hit Drive, with all its affected cool and detachment occasionally bursting into life in brutal violence, you would have thought they could do no wrong when they reteamed for Only God Forgives, which was the wacky comedy version of that previous film. Well, not really comedy, but by this point there was already a strong flavour of self-parody emerging in their collaboration as this hit all the beats Drive had done but with far less appeal; maybe it was the lack of car chases, maybe it was the different location, maybe it was down to Refn having something spiritual to say through a simple gangster tale, but fewer embraced this.

According to the director's soundbite quote on his movie, Drive had been the equivalent of experiencing high quality cocaine, so this was its counterpart, like taking excellent acid. There was a problem in a nutshell, that supposed cool disappearing into purest self-indulgence, so far that it meant very little except to the Refn and Gosling diehards, though even some of them were let down here. Coming on like a simple revenge yarn as Julian feels he has to seek vengeance when Billy is murdered, the complications ensue when it turns out the brother was killed in return for raping and slaughtering a sixteen-year-old girl, which makes Julian side with a complete lowlife.

Cue moral dilemma, but the retired police inspector Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm) brought in to investigate was apparently intended as a figure of reckoning, no less than God Almighty Himself. If that sounds high-falutin', it might have offered food for (obscure) thought but with every scene approached the same way the effect was less the Alejandro Jodorowsky tribute as indicated by the dedication in the end credits, and more a slavish imitation of the worst excesses of Gaspar Noe, who by no coincidence is also thanked at the end. The whole notion that the only message worth listening to is one backed by force, aggression and violence was a pernicious one which was only bolstered by Refn's efforts here, suggesting if he was sincere about the theology, he was barking up the wrong tree.

Julian believes he can make amends with his tortured soul by taking on Chang, i.e. God, and if not winning at least achieving a draw, an ambition which at least gives rise to a spot of humour in the martial arts showdown, though you'd be hard pressed to find laughs or any self-awareness otherwise. That was unless we were supposed to find a foulmouthed Kristin Scott Thomas amusing as she played Julian's mother, showing up in Bangkok to ensure her son bumps off those responsible for Billy's death and suggesting a few problems with women if she was the film's idea of a strong female, with the sole other one of note another prostitute, Mai (Thai singer Yayaying Rhatha Phongam) who has the privilege of masturbating for the camera and being bullied by Julian and his mother. You could point to the oppressive atmosphere, with its sleek photography and Cliff Martinez's score, as a success in itself, but as it sought to appeal the drug-fuelled poseurs of this world Only God Forgives illustrated too many deadening flaws in its modern, redundant, rogue warrior posturing.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


This review has been viewed 691 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

Review Comments (0)

Untitled 1

Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.

Latest Poll
Which film has the best theme song?
The Ups and Downs of a Handyman

Recent Visitors
Andrew Pragasam
Graeme Clark
Darren Jones
Enoch Sneed
Jason Cook
Paul Shrimpton
  Jony Clark
  The Elix


Last Updated: