Only God Forgives (2013) – Film Review

Only God ForgivesPoster for Only God Forgives

Starring Ryan Gosling, Vithaya Pansringarm, Kristin Scott Thomas

Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn

IMDB Rating: 5.8

This is a really strange film. That’s all I can think to say about it. Just strange.

Based in the criminal underworld of Bangkok, Only God Forgives stars Ryan Gosling as Julian, a boxing club manager which is a front to a drug smuggling ring. The criminal underworld he is in gets thrown into turmoil after Julian’s brother is killed, causing his mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) – the leader of a large criminal organisation – to fly into Bangkok, tasking Julian with finding his killer and unleashing hell.

In terms of the story, it seems very basic. A man, trying to kill another man, who killed another man. The story is not very exciting or engaging, and even though it was only a ninety minute film (approx.), it felt sometimes like it could have been cut down to a seventy minute film.

Acting performances in this film are quite good considering the two mains, Ryan and Vithaya, had very little dialogue to work with. Their performances were 90% based on how they conducted themselves and their presence, and I thought they did well on both counts. Kristin Scott Thomas had the most interesting character – the controlling, aggressive, powerful, yet loving mother of Julian and his brothers. Her performance was good also, maybe not as good as Vithaya, who was my favourite actor in this film, but still very engaging.

Even though the movie itself lacks depth, this is a pretty film. The visuals are colourful and it’s nice to see someone trying to do something else. The two main characters, Julian and Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm) have a presence whenever they are on the screen with their slow movements and mainly silent performances. Some of the shots by Nicolas Winding Refn are very interesting and nice to watch, but the whole movie is let down by the lack of story. I fear that if it wasn’t for the aggressive and loving mother this could have been more boring than watching paint dry. I also thought at some stages that a more powerful score behind all the images would have made the film more exciting and emotional, but it stayed relatively quiet and in the background of what was a near silent movie.

Only God Forgives draws you in with pretty colours and a big lead actor, but ultimately lets you down on all other fronts. I’ve seen it twice now and felt like it dragged both times. I think it’s interesting to watch simply because it’s different to other major pictures, but don’t expect too much from it.

Do you think a film can be successful just on it’s visuals, or does every film need a good script to go with it? Vote Below!

Seen Only God Forgives? Let me know what you thought!

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