Dear God, do I have to?
When the savagely distasteful reviews for ‘Only God Forgives’ dropped earlier this year, I was baffled. I mean, ‘Drive’ was pretty much critically applauded and continues to earn raves from cinephiles, and Ryan Gosling is kind of like beloved by nearly everyone (I said nearly), so how in the world could the much anticipated follow-up to their surprise masterpiece be such a terrible film? I chucked it up people just not ‘getting it’ and figured that they MUST be wrong.
Nicolas Winding Refn couldn’t have dropped the ball THAT far, could he?
You can go ahead and sound the alarm, because the world that hated ‘Only God Forgives’ was correct and pretty much hit every nail on the head. I’m just as baffled as the ten other people who have yet to see this (I’m always late to the party), but believe me, this film is atrocious in ways I can’t even put into words. I’m almost loathe to admit that I liked anything about this movie (the cinematography is gorgeous, the costumes are divine and that score is Oscar worthy) simply because the overall product is so dreadful.
I am an advocate for the whole mantra ‘less is more’. I love a subtle and inviting flow to a film because that slow burn allows the characters and the plot to thrive, unravel and blossom. ‘Drive’ had that, despite what you may think. I think that was a chief complaint from the movie going public, since they were anticipating another ‘Fast and the Furious’ and wound up getting something much slower, deeper and darker. When I read the countless reviews complaining that ‘Only God Forgives’ was too slow, too vacant or too quiet I actually thought that the critics were experiences a bad case of memory loss. Didn’t we go through this already two years ago? Don’t you know that Refn’s films are NOT what they appear but so much more than they appear?
Memory loss or not, those complaints are legit.
That is my biggest issue with ‘Only God Forgives’ and a chief complaint I had with another film I saw recently (‘To the Wonder’). In fact, I foolishly watched those films back to back and I felt like I was watching a double feature on absolutely nothing. Where ‘Drive’ developed not only an intricate plot but a protagonist who felt real and crushing, ‘Only God Forgives’ forgets to develop much of anything. Instead, we are given scattered characters who say very little and only know how to emote a singular expression (I’m still not sure what that expression is, although I strongly feel that it could be constipation) and then one broadly stroked caricature who has all the obvious clichés of the ‘monster mom’ and yet none of the grounding to make her feel real, believable or even remotely entertaining (I love you Kristen, but what are you doing here?). The plot itself is another ‘shrug of the shoulders’ as it fails to be interesting or gripping but instead serves as a blank canvas for the characters to inflict horrific bodily pain on others and for the effects department to produce large amounts of fake blood.
Gosling plays a man named Julian, a drug-smuggler living in Bangkok. The film’s opening sequences portray Julian’s unstable brother butchering a young prostitute and then being beaten to death by her father. Julian’s unhinged mother shows up to bury her son and exact revenge on the men responsible for her son’s death, including a sadistic police officer. Julian doesn’t want to get involved, but his mother is a whirlpool and he’s soon getting beaten up by the cop and avenging his mother.
At least I think so.
There are so many distasteful things about this movie, and so many lazy aspects. I didn’t expect Refn to pen such a poorly constructed disaster, but his script is so bare and so unintelligent, and the barely there dialog doesn’t help any. I think Gosling says about ten things, and he doesn’t wear any expression on his face but that of ‘deep concentration’ (or constipation, as I mentioned already) and so you really get no handle on who this man is. Many scenes in the film feel so unnecessary or not even that but more pointless or ridiculous (as in, they don’t belong). The relationship between Julian and his mother is never fleshed out and so it winds up feeling put upon and laughable, especially when he subjects a prostitute to dinner with his tactless mother (seriously, remind me again why he wants her to meet his mother), bares up under his mother’s insults and then berates his date (at least he shifts his facial features long enough to scream), demanding she take off the dress he purchased for her.
I don’t think I can count the amount of times I stared at the screen, completely lost as to why anything that was going on was going on because nothing really ‘was’ going on.
Much like ‘To the Wonder’, I’m left wondering if the bulk of this film is sitting on the cutting room floor somewhere, and if so, why didn’t someone take the editor out and shoot them? I mean, this can’t be the film Refn intended to release, right? Is this his idea of a joke? Maybe he intended to create something so hideous and so nonsensical that it could only be considered genius, because there really is no other explanation for it.
Guess what Nicolas; you’re plan didn’t work!
Oh, and $10 to the first person who can find any difference in Gosling's facial expressions in the pics posted here. Looks like I'm keeping my $10!
I give this an easy F. I take that back, it wasn't so easy to give. I wanted to love this movie. I wanted the haters to be just that, haters, but in fact they are just right on the money. It saddens me. This was in my top ten most anticipated of the year. After 'Drive', I was convinced that this was going to be THE movie of the year and, to be honest, I was kind of anticipating this being my favorite movie of the year. Instead, this is the worst piece of shit I've seen so far this year and I'm ashamed to say that. As far as Oscar is concerned, forget it. You can MAYBE expect to see a few critical mentions for cinematography or score (both of which would be justified, since they are the best aspects of the film), but not much more. Kristen Scott Thomas is terrible here, but I wouldn't be too shocked if she snagged a lesser critics awards mention somewhere. Maybe from the 'San Antonio Internet Film Lovers Association' or some shit like that.